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 2020!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.99% – 6.65%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 7.10%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.99% – 6.44%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|1.99% – 6.43%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.18% – 6.07%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
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1 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 June 23, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
2 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Splash Financial loans are available through arrangements with lending partners. Your loan application will be submitted to the lending partner and be evaluated at their sole discretion. For loans where a credit union is the lender, or a purchaser of the loan, in order to refinance your loans, you will need to become a credit union member.
The Splash Student Loan Refinance Program is not offered or endorsed by any college or university. Neither Splash Financial nor the lending partner are affiliated with or endorse any college or university listed on this website.
You should review the benefits of your federal student loan; it may offer specific benefits that a private refinance/consolidation loan may not offer. If you work in the public sector, are in the military or taking advantage of a federal department of relief program, such as income based repayment or public service forgiveness, you may not want to refinance, as these benefits do not transfer to private refinance/consolidation loans.
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 May 1, 2020.
Fixed APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rate options range from 2.88% (without autopay) to 7.27% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.88% per year to 6.21% per year for a 5-year term, 3.40% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term, 3.45% to 5.08% for a 8-year term, 3.89% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term, 4.18% per year to 5.11% per year for a 12-year term, 4.20% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term, or 4.51% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. The fixed interest rate will apply until the loan is paid in full (whether before or after default, and whether before or after the scheduled maturity date of the loan).
Variable APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Variable rate options range from 1.99% (with autopay) to 7.10% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Our lowest rate option is shown with a 0.25% autopay discount. Our highest rate option does not include an autopay discount. The variable rates are based on the Variable rate index, is 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 27, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.43763%. The interest rate on a variable rate loan is comprised of an index and margin added together. The margin is a fixed amount (disclosed at the time of your loan application) added each month to the index to determine the next month’s variable rate. Variable rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.01% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term, 4.00% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term, 2.09% per year to 3.92% per year for a 8-year term, 4.25% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 2.67% per year to 4.56% per year for a 12-year term, 3.44% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term, 4.75% per year to 6.93% per year for a 20-year term, or 5.14% per year to 7.10% for a 25-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate may be between 9.00% and 16.00%, depending on loan term. The floor rate may be between 0.54% and 4.21%, depending on loan term. 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.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 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 3.19% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.43% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.43% 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 June 15, 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 6/15/2020. 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.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
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 0.19% effective June 10, 2020.