It can take a long time for you to get your student aid money. On average, three to four weeks can pass between applying and actually receiving the money, according to College Ave. And federal loan borrowers might have to wait for 30 days after the first day of classes for their funds to be disbursed, according to the Federal Student Aid website.
That type of delay is one reason why some pursue “instant” student loans. These could hit your checking account within one business day. Sounds pretty legit, right?
These instant student loans are often personal loans disguised as student aid. They come with higher interest rates and less reliance on your credit history. Here’s why you should be wary of instant student loans — and four ways to avoid them altogether.
What do instant student loans entail?
Cue the cliche car dealership commercial that promises you a great deal: “No money down, no payments for six months.” Now imagine it’s a promotion for a student loan.
But you don’t have to imagine — there are lenders that make these type of “instant student loan” promises to borrowers hoping to fulfill the dream of attending college or graduate school. Applications like the one below will request your income, bank information, and amount of property ownership.
But here’s the catch: In exchange for fast approval and payout, the loans typically come with high APRs. One middleman loan company has fixed APRs ranging from 5.99% to 35.99%. By comparison, more reputable lenders have rates spanning 2.93% and 11.85%.
“Remember, the amount is paid back much more quickly than a regular loan, so the interest isn’t given a chance to ever stack up,” warned one site, Bad Credit Loans. “We also keep our qualification requirements simple enough to allow almost anyone to qualify, even applicants who would most likely not be approved elsewhere.”
Why you should avoid instant student loans
The problem here is that a sped-up repayment schedule is typically not a solution for least-qualified borrowers.
Federal student loans default to a 10-year, standard repayment plan. Private loans from reputable lenders offer terms as short as five or seven years with flexible repayment options (like in-school deferment).
A $5,000 personal loan disguised as an instant student loan, though, might need to be repaid within three years. That’s before you have a chance to graduate, enter the workforce, or increase your income. Depending upon the loan agreement, you might even be required to make payments immediately.
That means a minimum payment could be much higher than that of a federal or standard private loan.
Other problems with instant student loans
There are other potential dangers to instant student loans, too, such as being matched with a lender that doesn’t offer repayment protections if you run into financial trouble. Options like unemployment support, deferment, and forbearance might not be available.
It’s important to consider any lack of protections when evaluating a no-credit or bad-credit loan offer because the math can turn red quickly. Missing a payment on a loan with a 5.00% APR is not the same thing as missing one tied to a 20.00% APR.
A higher interest rate will cost you more, even on a shorter-term loan. For example, missing two payments on a $5,000 loan with a 20% interest rate could cost an extra $225 — and that’s before late fees. That’s why it’s important to read through any loan offer for details on the interest capitalization the penalties for not making timely payments.
4 alternatives to instant student loans
If you have a limited or poor credit history, acquiring debt on your own likely isn’t the best option. Fortunately, it’s not your only option.
Before taking out an instant student loan with unattractive rates and terms, consult your school’s financial aid office. It might be able to point you in the direction of other funding sources or perhaps dig into its own pile of emergency loan funds.
Beyond that, here are four more strategies to help you avoid unfriendly loan terms.
1. Scrape together scholarships and grants
The best kind of financial help is gift aid. It doesn’t need to be paid back, although it does need to be earned in some cases.
If you’re considering bad-credit loans, you’ve probably already scraped the bottom of the barrel for scholarships and grants. But have you looked under the barrel? You can download some free scholarship tools that might help you discover what you previously missed. You might even be eligible for our Student Loan Hero scholarship.
2. Pick up a side gig
Instant student loans marketed to borrowers with little to no credit history typically don’t distribute loans larger than $1,000. The good news is there are better ways to come up with that amount of money.
If you have a tuition payment that’s due in a few months — or can convince your school to push it back — consider part-time work. College students are prime candidates for part-time opportunities in between classes. You can also earn extra money using your existing skills.
3. Maximize your federal loans
Most federal student loans don’t require a credit history or a co-signer, and come with generous repayment protections and plans — that’s why they’re desirable. But it’s possible the federal government didn’t award you the maximum amount you’re eligible for.
This could occur, for example, when the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) listed on your college award letter is inaccurate. Say your FAFSA spits out an EFC of $7,500, leading your school to award you $2,000 in Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
Now, say you and your parents can only afford $4,000 (not $7,500) to pay for your freshman year. That $3,500 shortfall could be fulfilled by maxing out your federal loan allowance.
Maximizing your federal loan allowance isn’t always simple. You might need to appeal your initial loan amount on your college award letter or provide evidence of extenuating circumstances, such as illness or job loss.
Ask your school’s financial aid office as early as possible about bringing you up to the maximum allotment. You might need to put your request in writing, though, particularly if you’re trying to max out need-based borrowing options.
4. Add a co-signer to a private loan
If you’re considering unattractive rate offers from suspect lenders, you probably need money now — you don’t have time to build up your credit score.
If you want to qualify for a better private loan immediately, one shortcut is to find a co-signer with good credit history. Leverage a relative’s creditworthy profile to secure a lower rate from a reputable lender that offers more federal-like advantages.
Taking this route still keeps your name on the loan, allowing you to build up your credit history. Plus, once you’ve made a few years of timely payments, you might even be able to release your co-signer.
Find a better lender
So here’s the ugly truth about instant student loans: If the lender doesn’t require as much of you, you’re probably getting a bad deal. (Or at least not as good of a deal as you’d get elsewhere.)
So, before resorting to a less desirable loan because it’s quicker, do your homework. See what it takes to qualify for a more affordable loan from a reliable lender. Putting in a little time now can save you big bucks later.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
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* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of
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|3.92% - 12.66%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents||Visit CollegeAve|
|3.62% - 11.85%*3||Undergraduate and Graduate||Visit SallieMae|
|2.93% - 9.67%||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents||Visit CommonBond|
|3.46% - 11.99%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents||Visit Citizens|
|4.21% - 9.69%||Undergraduate and Graduate||Visit LendKey|
|3.35% - 10.89%||Undergraduate and Graduate||Visit Connext|
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