Note that the situation for student loans has changed due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and relief efforts from the government, student loan lenders and others. Check out our Student Loan Hero Coronavirus Information Center for additional news and details.
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So you’ve missed a student loan payment. Maybe the month just flew by, or perhaps money is especially tight. Now it’s time to fix that late student loan payment and make things right. After all, missing a payment can mean serious consequences if you don’t act quickly.
Here’s what you need to know:
- What happens when you’re late on student loan payments
- What to do when you’re late on student loan payments
- How to avoid late student loan payments
- Final thoughts on missing or late student loan payments
The timeline of how a late student loan payment is handled will vary from lender to lender. If you’re dealing with a private student loan, your loan contract should explain the process. Similarly, the Department of Education explains on its Federal Student Aid website how late payments get processed.
As soon as you have missed a payment, your student loan status changes from “current” to “delinquent.” You will not be changed back to “current” until you take action either by making that payment or requesting a deferment or forbearance.
In fact, recent data showed that roughly 11% of federal student loans were 90 days or more past due. If you have a late student loan payment, you must act fast because there could be major consequences.
Late fees from a missed student loan payment
During the first month of a missed payment, you may be charged a late fee penalty. When this occurs — and how much of a hit you’ll take — depends on the loan servicer.
For example, a $400 student loan payment may be charged a 5% late fee after 30 days, which means you could owe up to $20 extra. And late fees continue to add up as long as your account is delinquent.
Late student loan payments and your credit score
A late student loan payment could result in your servicer reporting the delinquency to the three major credit bureaus.
After 30 days
Some federal student loan servicers may charge a fee as soon as you miss a monthly payment, while policies for private lenders vary widely, so check with them if you think you’ll be late.
After 90 days
Servicers for federal student loans report after 90 days, while the policy for lenders and servicers of private student loans varies.
A late student loan payment on your record will reduce your credit score and may affect your ability to take out new credit (such as getting a new credit card or car loan). If you have credit card debt, you may also see your interest rates rise.
In other words, that one missed student loan could affect the rest of your debts.
After 270 days
After 270 days of having a late student loan payment, your federal student loan goes from “delinquent to “default.” Note that with private student loans, this can happen even sooner.
Defaulting on a student loan is a huge deal. Unlike delinquency, defaulting means your student loans are due in full, along with any accrued interest or fines and penalties (such as fees charged by collection agencies).
Late student payments and wage garnishment
Additionally, the government can begin garnishing your wages or even take your tax return in order to cover the costs of your missed federal student loan payment. And, believe it or not, your student loan servicer (federal or private) or a collections agency could sue you.
If someone helped you get the loan, delinquency and default can be incredibly damaging for the cosigner as well. Delinquency on a cosigned student loan can severely impact the cosigner’s credit, and collections may come after them or their property to recoup the loss.
No matter how late you are on your student loan payment, there are steps to take to help remedy the situation:
- Reach out to your lender or servicer and admit your mistake.
- Let them know about any financial hardships. If you have a late student loan payment because of a medical emergency, job loss or another unforeseen event, your servicer or lender may be able to help.
- Consider applying for deferment or forbearance to possibly postpone or reduce your payments based on your situation.
- If you have federal student loans, income-driven repayment plans are an option that could push your monthly payment to as low as zero
- Consider a student loan late payment forgiveness program.
If you just want to get your student loan payment back to current, your service representative can walk you through the steps you will need to make, including any fees you will need to pay, somewhat like a late payment forgiveness program for your student loan.
Late student loan payments happen. Whether you were unable to pay this month or you simply forgot, it’s time to set up strategies that can help you avoid the hassle again in the future.
Set up auto pay
Your best course of action is to set up automatic student loan payments. Lenders love when you sign up for automatic payments — so much so that they may offer a reduction of your monthly interest rate for signing up, usually a quarter of a percentage point.
And if your credit took a hit because of a late student loan payment, having a consistent, automatic payment can help your score bounce back more quickly.
Ask about payment deferment
If automatic student loan payments aren’t an option, consider changing the due date of your student loan to a date that lines up with your paycheck. Many student loan providers will give you this option.
Use calendar alerts and reminders
Another strategy is to simply organize your finances in a way that will help you better remember due dates. If you are not great at keeping track of paper mail, sign up for e-statements or email notifications of your loans’ due dates. If you rely on your phone to keep your dates straight, set up calendar alerts (or even an alarm) that will consistently remind you that your payment is due.
If you’re panicked about missing a student loan, don’t freak out just yet. The sooner you realize and own up to your mistake, the faster you can take care of your debt.
Letting a late student loan payment spiral out of control can have disastrous consequences for your money, your credit score and your future. With the help of income-driven payment plans or other payment options such as refinancing, you can find a plan that will work for you.
Christina Majaski and Sage Evans 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|
|1.99% – 6.84%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.91% – 5.25%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|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.