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

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Refinancing with Earnest

Refinancing rates from 3.50% APR. Checking your rates won’t affect your credit score.

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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 8 lenders of 2020!
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 4.25% APR (with Auto Pay) to 8.77% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 3.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 8.72% 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 March 18, 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 3/18/2020. 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 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 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 March 4, 2020 and is subject to change.


3 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-9.05% (2.72%-9.05% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.79%-9.30% (3.79%-9.30% APR).

Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of April 1, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.92%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%.

Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.

Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.

Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.

Citizens Bank Student Loan Eligibility: Applicants must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution.

Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.

Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.


4 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 4.25% APR to 8.774% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 3.5% APR to 8.7% 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 3.5% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 1.62% plus 0.94% 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.

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 1.67% effective February 10, 2020.


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 03/26/2020 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 7.89% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.39% 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 4/3/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

3.50% – 8.72%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.99% – 6.65%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.72% – 9.05%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

3.50% – 8.70%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.76% – 5.84%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.90% – 7.89%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

3.50% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

3.89% – 9.24%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.