When Refinancing Your Student Loans Makes Sense (and When It Doesn’t)

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Refinance rates with Laurel Road start at 1.89%.

Checking your rates won’t affect your score.

Check out Laurel Road

The average college graduate leaves school with almost $30,000 in student loan debt. Over time, interest can substantially add to that burden.

Although refinancing may be a great choice for some borrowers, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Depending on your loan types and interest rates, refinancing isn’t always best.

We’ll look at the pros and cons of refinancing student loans and whether it would be good for you.

Refinancing student loans pros and cons: Times it makes sense
Refinancing student loans pros and cons: Times it doesn’t make sense
Deciding if refinancing is right for you

Refinancing student loans pros and cons: Times it makes sense

If you’re looking to save money, you might be able to get a lower interest rate and a shorter repayment term. If you need more breathing room in your budget, you could extend your repayment term to get a lower monthly payment.

Here are some situations where refinancing can make the most sense:

You have private loans

Private student loans tend to have higher interest rates and less forgiving repayment terms than federal loans. They also generally don’t offer protections common with federal loans, such as income-driven repayment plans or mandatory forbearance.

If you opted for a variable interest rate when you took out your loan, you could see APRs as high as 8.65% via lenders recommended by Student Loan Hero. Since variable interest rates can fluctuate, that also means your monthly payment could change several times over the life of your loan. If you don’t like how variable rates can affect your payments, you can also opt to refinance with a fixed-rate loan. The rate would be set for the length of your loan and your payments wouldn’t change.

To get a better handle on how much you could save by refinancing, try using our Student Loan Refinancing Calculator.

You have high-interest federal loans

Depending on the type of federal student loans you took out, you might be paying a lot in interest. For example, if you went to graduate school and took out grad PLUS loans on or after July 1, 2019, and before July 1, 2020, your interest rate would be 7.08%. That interest rate can add significantly to the cost of your loan.

If you have good credit and earn a decent salary, you could potentially refinance your federal loans and get a lower interest rate. Some lenders offer refinancing loans with fixed APRs as low as 3.21% via lenders recommended by Student Loan Hero.

If you had $10,000 in PLUS loans with a 7.08% interest rate and took 10 years to pay off your debt, you’d pay $3,983 in interest. However, if you refinanced the loans and qualified for a 3.25% APR, you’d pay just $1,726 in interest — and you’d have a lower monthly payment. That switch would save you about $2,250, which you could use to pursue your other goals.

You have loans with a cosigner

If a parent or loved one cosigned a student loan with you, they’re responsible for the debt if you fall behind on your payments. Your cosigner’s credit could be negatively impacted if you miss a payment, making it difficult or even impossible for them to get approved for any new credit, like a car loan or a mortgage.

To prevent these kinds of issues, you can refinance the loans in your name and release your cosigner from responsibility. If you want to help your loved one and can handle the debt on your own, refinancing can relieve them of responsibility. It could also reduce tensions between the two of you.

CommonBond, LendKey and College Ave are among those that allow cosigner release, but you should still note that not all lenders will offer it.

Your credit score has improved substantially

Your creditworthiness plays a big role in your ability to refinance your student loans at the best interest rate for you.

Suppose you’ve been working for a while and paying your accounts on time. There’s a good chance that your credit score may have improved over time. Depending on your income, credit score and other lender requirements, you may be able to refinance your student loans at a much better rate than you currently have.

As with anything else, it pays to shop around to make sure you get the lowest interest rate possible.

Refinancing student loans pros and cons: Times it doesn’t make sense

Here are some scenarios when refinancing might not be wise:

You need an income-driven repayment plan

If you have federal student loans, you might qualify for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan if you can’t keep up with your payments. Under an IDR plan, your payment is capped at a percentage of your discretionary income — generally between 10% and 20% — and your repayment term is extended to 20 or 25 years, which could reduce your monthly bill.

An IDR plan can be a lifeline when you’re starting out on a small income. But if you refinance your federal loans with a private lender, you’ll lose this as an option. If you refinance and your income later decreases, your new lender might not be flexible about your payments.

One important thing to remember is that if you qualify for an IDR plan, you will have to recertify your income information each year. Your monthly repayment amount may vary depending on your reported income.

You are pursuing student loan forgiveness

If you plan to spend your career in public service, such as by working for a nonprofit or a government agency, you could qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). After 10 years of qualified payments, the government could forgive your loans. Notably, though, less than 1% of applicants are seeing their loans wiped away, so take that into consideration.

If you refinance your debt, you’re no longer eligible for PSLF. The program only applies to federal loans. Even though refinancing can save you money right now, it could cost you thousands in the long run if you qualify for PSLF.

Meanwhile, if you are pursuing a career in education, you could have as much as $17,500 forgiven, depending on your specialty.

Deciding if refinancing is right for you

Everyone’s situation is unique when it comes to student loans.

Are there other times when refinancing might make sense? Yes. This includes:

  • When you have multiple loans and want to worry about just one monthly payment
  • When you are already paying more than the monthly minimum and want to pay off your loans quicker

And there are other times when refinancing might not make sense, including:

  • When your credit score is too low and you can’t find a good cosigner
  • When you won’t lower your interest all that much
  • When you’re worried that your income could soon drop

Before refinancing, make sure you do your homework and understand how much you could save with each option. Then you can decide if the savings are worth the potential drawbacks.

Steve Santiago contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.89% – 5.99%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.99% – 5.64%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.99% – 6.84%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.91% – 5.25%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.25% – 6.53%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.17% – 4.47%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit PenFed

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 Feburary 1, 2021.

2 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 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% 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 October 26, 2020, 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 10/26/2020. 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 [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2020 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.

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

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.

4 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 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: 1. Fixed rates from 2.99% APR to 6.99% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.53% 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 2.25% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 0.12% plus 2.38% 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. The discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the interest savings are applied to the principal loan balance, which may help pay the loan down faster. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. *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.Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

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 2.99%-5.15% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.17%-4.47% 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.