Americans owe more in student loans than they do on credit cards, but how does that debt impact the rest of their financial lives? Can your college debt make it harder to buy a new car or home? How do student loans affect credit scores?
Since your credit score can boost or sink an application for a home mortgage, auto loan or even some jobs, it’s crucial to know if student loans affect your credit score. As it turns out, they do impact your credit in several ways, including some you might not expect. Let’s look at the following topics:
How do student loans affect a credit score?
Student loans could impact your debt-to-income ratio
It’s all about your monthly student loan payments
2 ways student loans could help your credit
Don’t sweat your student loan debt
3 key takeaways
Student loans are considered “installment loans,” meaning they generally carry a starting balance that’s repaid over time with a fixed number of payments. Home mortgages and auto loans also typically fall in this category.
All installment loans are treated the same way when calculating your FICO® credit score — student loans don’t have their own category or receive any special consideration. It also doesn’t matter if your student loans are federal or private. Both are treated the same.
But having a lot of these installment loans won’t necessarily hurt your credit score by itself. Debt usage — also known as your “credit utilization ratio” — makes up 30% of your score, according to Experian, but this is based only on revolving credit (e.g., credit card debt), not installment loans. So having $50,000 in credit card debt is likely worse for your credit score than $50,000 in student loan debt.
In fact, according to FICO, 7% of consumers with more than $50,000 in student loan debt still had “excellent” scores in the 800s.
This isn’t to say that your student loan balance has no impact at all. If you apply for a mortgage, for example, the lender might look at your debt-to-income ratio — the amount you pay on your debts each month compared to the amount you make in income. In this case, a pile of college debt could make it harder to get approved.
But generally, when it comes to installment loans like student debt, balances turn out not to be such a huge concern. Instead, it’s the payments that matter.
Late payments ding your credit score
The biggest relationship between student loans and credit scores involves whether you’re making your payments on time and in full.
Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO score — the most of any factor. Just one late payment can cause your credit score to drop.
While how much your credit score changes depends on many factors, consider these two examples from myFICO:
- Sophia, who has a credit score of 607, could lose 17 to 37 points from just one 30-day delinquency, while Maria, who has an excellent score of 793, stands to lose 63 to 83 points.
Defaulted loans hurt your credit the most
Loans in default or collections can hurt even more. Being a few days behind on a payment probably won’t hurt your credit score, but if you’re 30 days or more late on a private loan, it can appear on your credit report.
For federal student loans, late payments are reported to the three major credit bureaus after 90 days of delinquency (though in both cases, you’re fine if your loans are in deferment).
If you’re having trouble making payments, consider the various repayment options so you can keep paying on time.
Just as student loans can hurt your credit, they can help your credit as well.
Student loan accounts can boost your credit mix
Part of the FICO calculation includes credit mix — the different types of loans and lines of credit you have. Having both installment loans and revolving loans on your credit report can be a good thing for that metric.
And while credit mix is a relatively small factor in your credit score, at just 10% of the total, it can give you a little boost if both types of debt show up on your credit report.
(Keep in mind that once you pay off your student loans, it’s possible you may see your credit score drop slightly if that student debt was your only open installment loan. But financial experts don’t advise avoiding paying off student loans for the sake of your credit mix.)
Student loans can lengthen your credit history
The length of your credit history also serves as 15% of your credit score, and since student loans are often attached to long repayment periods, this can help you build a healthy credit file. Of course, it’s always best to pay the loan off as quickly as possible, instead of keeping it open just for the sake of your score.
While this article has covered a lot of the ways student loans can impact your credit score, you may be better off looking elsewhere if you want to increase your FICO number. As FICO itself says, credit cards are usually much more crucial.
“It’s important to note that while student loan debt can factor into the FICO score, credit card debt has a larger influence,” FICO stated in its blog. “That’s because we’ve found that credit card indebtedness has a stronger statistical correlation with future borrower performance than installment loan indebtedness.”
And regardless of what kind of debt you have, make sure to keep tabs on both your credit score and credit report. You can check your credit for free, so there’s no reason not to be vigilant.
- Student loans are treated the same as other types of installment loans for your credit score.
- Having more student loan debt isn’t automatically bad for your credit score.
- Focus on making student loan payments on time. It’s likely to have the biggest impact of anything related to your student loans and credit score.
Rebecca Safier and Laura Woods contributed to this report.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 5.99%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
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|2.25% – 6.53%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.17% – 4.47%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
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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.
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.
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.
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.
6 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 2.99%-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.