“This is almost as much as my rent.”
“I could go on vacation every month with this kind of money.”
These are probably just a couple of the thoughts that have run through your mind as you make your monthly student loan payment. If only there were some way to lower your student loan payments to a more manageable level.
The good news: there is. You don’t have to be stuck with sky-high payments. Here are 10 different ways to lower your student loan payment plans or repay your loans early.
- Apply for an income-driven repayment plan
- Sign up for a Graduated Repayment Plan
- Consider an Extended Repayment Plan
- Consolidate your loans
- Move to another state
- Sign up for automatic payments
- Make all your payments on time
- Get help from your employer
- Refinance your student loans
- Search for repayment assistance
1. Apply for an income-driven repayment plan
If you have federal student loans, you’re automatically enrolled in the Standard Repayment Plan when you graduate. With this plan, your payments are fixed and divided over 10 years. Under a Standard Repayment Plan, you’ll pay the least amount of interest and repay your loan the fastest, but the monthly payments can be high.
Luckily, there are other student loan payment plans available. There are four different income-driven repayment (IDR) plans where your payments are based on your income:
Under an IDR plan, the loan servicer extends your repayment term to 20 to 25 years, and caps your monthly payment at a percentage of your discretionary income. Depending on your income, family size, and loan balance, your payment could be as low as $0 a month.
As your situation changes, your payments will change, too. If your income decreases or increases, or if your family grows, your payment will be adjusted.
Although your payments can be significantly smaller with an IDR plan, you’ll pay more in interest over the length of the loan. But if you’re struggling to afford your payments, an IDR plan can give you some more breathing room in your budget as you build your career.
Use the federal repayment estimator to find out what your monthly payment would be under each of the different student loan payment plans.
2. Sign up for a Graduated Repayment Plan
If you make too much money to qualify for a lower payment with an IDR plan but still can’t afford your payment for your federal loans, another option is to sign up for a Graduated Repayment Plan.
Unlike IDR plans, which are based on your income and family size, payments under a Graduated Repayment Plan start out low, then gradually increase every two years. After 10 years, your payments are paid off.
Because the payments start out so low, you’ll pay more in interest over the length of your loan than you would with a Standard Repayment Plan. Plus, your payments increase every two years, regardless of your income. Even if you have to take a lower-paying job, you’ll still have to make a larger monthly payment.
3. Consider an Extended Repayment Plan
If you have more than $30,000 in federal Direct Loans, you might be eligible for an Extended Repayment Plan. With this option, you’ll repay your loan over up to 25 years, and you can choose between fixed and graduated payments.
Your payments will generally be lower than they would be under a Standard Repayment Plan or Graduated Repayment Plan because of the long term. But it’s not dependent on your income, so it might be cheaper to sign up for an IDR plan instead.
4. Consolidate your loans
If you have multiple federal student loans, all with their own interest rates, repayment terms, and minimum monthly payments, consolidating your debt with a Direct Consolidation Loan can be a wise decision.
With a Direct Consolidation Loan, you take out another federal loan for the amount of all your old ones. You’ll now have just one monthly payment and one due date to manage.
Your interest rate will be the weighted average of your previous loans’ rates, so you won’t necessarily get a lower rate. But you can sign up for an IDR plan after consolidating most of your Direct Loans and reduce your payment that way — and have one payment to remember rather than juggling several at once.
5. Move to another state
It might sound drastic, but where you live can impact your student loan repayment. Some states offer student loan repayment assistance programs and incentives to new residents, helping you pay off some or all of your loans.
Programs such as those offered by Texas and Minnesota are essentially free money. But before you pack your bags, make sure you consider other factors, such as your earning potential in the new state and the cost of living.
6. Sign up for automatic payments
Most lenders offer discounts for signing up for automatic payments. Connect your bank account, and you could qualify for a 0.25% rate discount. Although that might not sound significant, it can reduce how much you pay over time.
7. Make all your payments on time
Making all your payments on time is important to protect your credit score and avoid late fees. But there’s another reason: You could qualify for an extra discount on your interest rate.
Some lenders, such as SunTrust, offer a 0.25% rate reduction if you make your payments on time for 36 to 48 months. Combined with the automatic payment discount, you could save a significant amount of money.
8. Get help from your employer
To attract top talent, more and more employers are offering student loan repayment assistance. With many programs, employers will match your payments on your loans, much like a 401(k) match. With their help, you can pay off the debt faster and save money.
9. Refinance your student loans
If you have private student loans, you’re not eligible for alternative payment plans such as IDR. If that’s the case, or if you have a mix of federal and private loans, another option to consider is refinancing your student loans.
With refinancing, you work with a private lender to take out a new loan for the amount of your current ones. The new loan will have different terms, including repayment term, interest rate, and monthly payment. You can opt for a longer repayment term to reduce your monthly bill, and you might qualify for a lower rate that decreases your monthly payment, too.
For example, if you had $30,000 in student loans at a 7.00% interest rate, you’d pay $348 a month under a 10-year payment plan. And you’d pay $11,799 in interest charges.
If you refinanced your loans and qualified for a 4.00% interest rate, your new monthly payment under a 15-year term would be $222. Plus, you’d repay just $9,943 in interest. Refinancing would save you nearly $2,000, despite having a longer loan term.
Not everyone will qualify for refinancing. To maximize your chances of getting approved for a loan, ask a friend or relative with good credit and a stable income to act as a cosigner on the loan. Also, keep in mind that refinancing your loans has some drawbacks, especially if you have federal loans.
If you decide that refinancing is for you, compare offers from multiple refinancing lenders to get the best rate.
10. Search for repayment assistance
It might sound too good to be true, but there are hundreds of legitimate student loan repayment assistance programs. Depending on your occupation and location, your state could provide thousands to help you repay your student loans.
To find out if you’re eligible, check out our database of repayment assistance programs.
Choosing student loan payment plans
If you’re wondering how to lower student loan payments, there are a variety of options from which to choose. Unfortunately, there can be a lot of confusion around what options are available for student loan borrowers. By using this guide, you can find what you need to lower your payments and make them more manageable.
Before you choose a plan of action, understand what benefits you might give up and calculate how much extra interest you may pay over time. While lowering payments can feel like a quick win, it can also have long-term consequences. Choose wisely.
Ready to refinance? You can get rate quotes and apply for student loan refinancing online.
Melanie Lockert contributed to this article.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
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1 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 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% 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 Month/Day/Year, 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 08/21/18. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent 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
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
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.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.57% – 6.98%3||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.47% – 5.87%1||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.47% – 8.03%4||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.80% – 6.22%2||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.57% – 8.17%6||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|