When you’re in student loan repayment mode, it’s likely you’re hungry for solutions – anything to make paying off debt easier. One lesser-known option is using a personal loan to pay off the remaining debt.
Personal loans are typically unsecured loans. This means they aren’t backed by any collateral, such as a home or car.
The beauty of personal loans is that unlike with a mortgage, car loan, or even student loan, you can use the money how you like. It can fund a home renovation or even help consolidate credit card debt, as most personal loans offer better interest rates than credit cards.
But should you use a personal loan to pay off student loans? Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering getting a personal loan to pay off student loan debt.
Using a personal loan to pay off a student loan: Pros and cons
There are some options you should weigh before deciding to use a personal loan to pay off student loans. Overall, using a personal loan to refinance student debt can cause some issues.
Pros of paying off student loans with a personal loan
If you want to pursue a personal loan to pay off your student loans, consider these advantages:
- You can consolidate your student loans and have one monthly payment.
- You will have a fixed interest rate and a fixed repayment term, which could be beneficial.
- By paying off your student loans, you can release your cosigner (if you have one) from your loans.
However, using a personal loan to pay off student loan debt isn’t the only way to get these benefits.
Cons of paying off student loans with a personal loan
Personal loan interest is not tax-deductible
You will not be eligible to deduct student loan interest if you pay off your loans with a personal loan. Your new debt will be a personal loan, which is classified differently than student debt and has no tax benefits.
Currently, student loan borrowers can deduct up to $2,500 in student loan interest with a modified adjusted gross income of less than $80,000.
You forfeit federal student loan protections
The process of using a personal loan to pay off student loan debt is not reversible. You can’t go back to having federal student loans – you forfeit your borrower protections such as income-driven plans and loan forgiveness.
Jamie Block, a certified financial planner at Wealth Design Retirement Services, said, “The federal student loan program offers various repayment schedules that provide flexibility personal loans cannot offer. Federal loans offer payment plans based on income, allows deferment if the borrower returns to college, and debt forgiveness under certain circumstances. Unfortunately, personal loans are not as generous.”
As Block pointed out, if you are having trouble making payments on federal student loans, you have several options to lower or pause payments. No such options exist for personal loan borrowers experiencing financial hardship.
Personal loan rates are usually higher than student loan rates
Student loan rates are typically lower than those offered on personal loans. For instance, student loan refinancing rates start around 1.95%. By comparison, the lowest personal loan rates start around 4.99%. Those are just the lowest rates, however. More typical rates for student loan refinancing are usually around 4-6%, while average personal loan rates for borrowers with good credit are around 15% – or higher.
Even if a personal loan rate is lower than your current student loan rate, you might save even more by refinancing with new private student loans, instead. You’re likely to get a much better deal refinancing a student loan with a new student loan, than trying to replace it with a personal loan.
It might be tricky to get a personal loan for student debt
One thing to keep in mind: not all lenders will allow you to pay off student loans with your personal loan. Before you apply, be sure to check and make sure the lender issuing the personal loan allows you to use the funds to pay student loan debt.
Note that you will also need to qualify for a personal loan. Personal loans usually require good credit or better, as well as good income and steady employment. You’ll have to meet all underwriting requirements to get a personal loan and qualify for the lowest personal loan rates.
Alternatives to using a personal loan to pay off student loans
If you’re not sure about using a personal loan to pay off student loan debt, there are other options.
Federal student loan repayment plans and options
If you have federal student loans, you have a variety of repayment options available. You can go with the Standard Repayment Plan and pay off your student loans in 10 years.
You can apply for an income-driven repayment plan if your income doesn’t support your student loan payments. These plans match your monthly payments to your income and are specifically designed to ensure they are affordable. Switching to an income-driven repayment plan can lower payments and help free up cash for other necessities.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness is also an option if you work in the public sector. If you use a personal loan to pay off federal student debt, you would give up those federal protections and flexibility. Personal loans have fixed repayment terms and don’t have the same repayment options.
Consider refinancing before using a personal loan for student debt
If you’re dreaming of paying off debt quickly and saving money on interest, consider refinancing your student loans into a new student loan before turning to a personal loan.
Student loan refinancing companies help borrowers consolidate their student loans and save money on interest through a lower interest rate. Depending on your credit, you could shave off a few percentage points in interest, resulting in big savings.
In addition, some refinancing companies such as SoFi and CommonBond have unemployment protection, which allows you to put your payments on pause while looking for a job.
Using a personal loan to pay off student debt won’t afford you these types of benefits specific to student loan borrowers. Plus, you might not get a better interest rate through a personal loan.
If you’re thinking about using a personal loan to pay off student debt, consider all of your other options first and understand what benefits you are giving up. If you do pursue a personal loan, find a reputable lender and read the fine print to make sure you’re not agreeing to terms that will interfere with your financial success later on down the road.
Elyssa Kirkham contributed to this article.
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