8 Pro Tips on Student Loan Refinancing

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Refinancing with Earnest

Refinancing rates from 2.54% APR. Checking your rates won’t affect your credit score.

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Student loan refinancing offers a chance to lower your interest rate and choose new terms on your debt, if you qualify. But as with any approach to managing finances, refinancing isn’t for everyone.

While some borrowers could save money through refinancing, others might not see any savings — or could have trouble qualifying in the first place.

For more on the pros and cons of refinancing, we asked student loan experts what their take was. Here’s what they had to say about the benefits of refinancing — and where it falls short.

1. You could save a lot of money on interest

One of the biggest benefits of refinancing student loans is getting a lower interest rate. If you can meet requirements for credit and income — or apply with a cosigner who can — you could qualify for a low rate on your refinanced student loan.

“Refinancing can be a great way to save thousands of dollars by getting a lower interest rate,” said Travis Hornsby, a chartered financial analyst and founder of Student Loan Planner.

Let’s say you have a $30,000 student loan with a 6.8% interest rate on a 10-year repayment plan. If you refinanced that rate down to 4.5%, you’d save $4,119 in interest over 10 years.

“The big advantage with refinancing is the potential savings on interest,” said Michael Lux, attorney and founder of The Student Loan Sherpa. “It can mean lower payments each month and free up cash for things like buying a house or saving for retirement.”

Not only could you set aside the money you’re saving each month on interest, but you could throw it at your student debt to pay it off even faster.

2. … but your savings might not be as big as a lender advertises

Although lowering your interest rate may save you money, you also have to be careful not to get taken in by overblown promises from a lender.

Some might claim to offer you thousands of dollars in savings, but the math only works if you choose a specific repayment term and make a certain monthly payment.

“Lender advertisements concerning savings may not reflect the experience of individual borrowers,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research at SavingforCollege.com. “Even if the savings are real, most of the savings will come from a shorter repayment term and higher monthly payment, not from the lower interest rate.”

If you doubled your monthly payment, for instance, you could get out of debt in about half the time — with or without refinancing first.

“You can easily implement a higher monthly payment on your own, without refinancing, by making extra payments to [the] principal,” said Kantrowitz.

Although refinancing for a lower rate could maximize your savings, you also need to make sure refinancing is the right choice for your individual situation.

3. Shopping around will help you find the lowest rates

If your priority is finding the lowest interest rate, compare offers from a variety of lenders before choosing one.

“The best way to get a favorable rate is to shop around with a number of lenders,” said Lux. “Each lender uses different criteria when evaluating applicants, so the company advertising the lowest rate may not actually offer the best rate.”

Although comparing multiple offers might sound time-consuming, it doesn’t have to be. Some lenders instant rate quotes, so you can get a sense of your rate after providing just a few pieces of personal information.

Plus, these rate quotes won’t impact your credit score and don’t require any commitment. So if you’re curious if you’ll qualify, you could easily find out from lenders such as SoFi, CommonBond, and Earnest in a matter of minutes.

4. … but be careful about sacrificing federal benefits

Both private and federal student loans are eligible for student loan refinancing. But refinancing federal student loans turns them private, which means you’ll lose access to federal repayment plans, forgiveness programs and other perks.

“If you refinance a federal loan into a private loan, you walk away from important federal benefits and consumer protections, such as income-driven repayment, loan forgiveness programs, default resolution options, flexibility during times of hardship and discharges based on disability or death of the borrower,” said student loan lawyer Adam S. Minsky.

The federal government offers a variety of options to help you through periods of financial hardship, but private lenders aren’t always so flexible. Some allow you to postpone student loan payments through forbearance if you lose your job or return to school, but not all of them do.

So if you foresee needing federal programs in the future — or are working toward a program like Public Service Loan Forgiveness — refinancing your federal student loans would probably be a bad idea.

Even if you don’t mind sacrificing federal protections, check to see what benefits your prospective refinancing provider offers before committing to refinance with them. Some lenders, for instance, offer unemployment protection and even career counseling to their customers.

As Minsky advised: “Borrowers should thoroughly understand what they are getting — and what they are giving up — with any refinancing product before they sign.”

5. You can simplify repayment by combining multiple loans into one

Along with potentially saving you money on interest and choosing new terms on your student loans, refinancing also comes with another possible perk: the chance to consolidate several loans into one.

“The benefits of refinancing student loans include streamlining the repayment process by replacing multiple loans with a single loan,” said Kantrowitz.

Instead of keeping track of multiple payments and due dates, you’ll only have to remember one. This consolidation could simplify the repayment process and make it easier to pay back your debt.

Plus, you might have the option of refinancing parent PLUS loans or other loans that a parent took out on your behalf. As a result, you can assume responsibility for the loan, so your parent’s credit is no longer on the line.

This transfer of responsibility might be the solution you’ve been looking for to get your parent off the hook for your education debt.

6. … but be careful about which student loans you refinance

Although refinancing lets you simplify repayment by consolidating multiple loans, you don’t have to refinance all your loans. Instead, you might benefit from cherry-picking just one or two to refinance, depending on where you’d see the greatest interest savings.

For example, let’s say a lender is offering you a refinanced student loan at 5.00%. One of your loans has a 7.00% rate, so this reduction would save you money. But your other loan has a 4.00% rate, so accepting this offer could obviously cost you extra on that particular loan.

Instead of refinancing all your loans, figure out how you’d benefit the most. In some instances, you might have better luck just by focusing on your high-interest loans with the debt avalanche method of repayment.

“Some borrowers may be better off targeting the highest-rate loan for quicker repayment,” said Kantrowitz. “You can’t do that after consolidating. If the interest rate on the refi will be higher than most of the interest rates on the refinanced loans, except for one or two, you may save money by accelerating repayment of the highest-rate loans instead of refinancing.”

7. Refinancing more than once could lower your interest rate even more

Since refinancing has the potential to lower your interest rate and restructure your debt, it stands to reason that refinancing multiple times could benefit your finances further.

But refinancing more than once is likely only worth the effort if you can snag a lower interest rate the second or third time around.

“There might be an advantage to refinancing a student loan more than once … in an economic environment where interest rates are dropping,” said student loan lawyer Jennifer Weil.

However, Weil notes that this “is not where we are right now.” (For example, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis rates continuing to rise over the short term.)

Another reason to refinance again would be if your credit score and income have gone up, and you want to see if you could qualify for even better terms.

Finally, you might refinance again to remove a cosigner from your loans. But before going this route, check to see if your lender already offers cosigner release after a period of on-time repayment.

8. … but be strategic about choosing a fixed or variable rate

When you refinance student loans, you have the chance to adjust your monthly payment by choosing new repayment terms, usually between five and 20 years. You’ll also get to choose between a fixed rate, which stays the same over the life of your loans, and a variable rate, which could fluctuate with the market over the years.

Choosing between fixed and variable rates is entirely dependent on the student’s loan situation,” said Jacob Dayan, CEO and co-founder of tax services company Community Tax. “The length of time at which the loan will be paid back is a strong indicator when choosing between fixed and variable rates.”

Currently, variable rates usually start out lower than fixed ones, so they could save you money if you’re planning to pay your loan off quickly. But if you’re selecting a longer repayment term, a variable rate becomes more risky.

“Students who are able to pay off their loan relatively quickly have often sided with a variable rate,” said Dayan. “However, the longer it takes a student to pay off the loan with variable rates, the more chances there are for the rates to change over the lifetime of the loan. If a student’s future income is uncertain, and they don’t plan on paying off the loan quickly, many students consider fixed-rate student loans for more consistency.”

Use our student loan payment calculator to estimate the short- and long-term costs of each repayment plan and interest rate. By doing out the math, you can focus in on a repayment plan that works for your budget.

Weigh the pros and cons of refinancing to see if it’s right for you

The student loan experts we spoke with agree that refinancing has the potential to save you money on interest and restructure your debt with a plan that’s beneficial for your finances.

But you should also be careful about giving up federal protections, since these could come in handy if you lose your income or if you are in danger of going into default.

Whenever you’re dealing with loans, it’s important to benefits and drawbacks before making changes.

That way, you won’t make a challenging situation worse, but instead can make an informed choice that helps you conquer your student loan debt once and for all.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance:

    Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 8.074% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.540% APR to 7.115% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.540% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.49% plus 0.04% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score. SoFi rate ranges are current as of March 11, 2019 and are subject to change without notice.

  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

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 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.54% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% 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 March 18, 2019, 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 0318/2019. 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 hello@earnest.com, 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.


3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

FIXED APR
Fixed rate options consist of a range from 3.75% per year to 5.80% per year for a 5-year term, 5.14% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term, 5.24% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term, 5.30% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.61% 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). The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.75% per year to 5.80% per year for a 5-year term would be from $183.04 to $192.40. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.14% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term would be from $142.00 to $147.29. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.24% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term would be from $107.24 to $114.31. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.30% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term would be from $80.65 to $90.16. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.61% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term would be from $69.41 to $79.16.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.

VARIABLE APR
Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.48% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term, 4.85% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term, 4.90% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 5.15% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.40% per year to 6.90% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.48% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term would be from $181.83 to $194.73. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.85% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term would be from $140.64 to $147.77. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.90% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term would be from $105.58 to $113.04. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.15% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term would be from $79.86 to $87.94. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.40% per year to 6.90% per year for a 20-year term would be from $68.23 to $76.93.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.


4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

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.

CommonBond Disclosures

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 2.5% effective February 10, 2019.


6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, 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 March 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.48%. Variable interest rates range from 2.98%-9.72% (2.98%-9.72% APR) and 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. Fixed interest rates range from 3.89%-9.99% (3.89%-9.99% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 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. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply. Borrowers whose loans were funded prior to reaching the age of majority may not be eligible for co-signer release. Note: co-signer release is not available on the Student Loan for Parents or Education Refinance Loan for Parents.

2.54% – 7.12%3Undergrad
& Graduate

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2.54% – 7.27%1Undergrad
& Graduate

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2.67% – 8.96%4Undergrad
& Graduate

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3.23% – 6.65%2Undergrad
& Graduate

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2.69% – 7.43%5Undergrad
& Graduate

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2.98% – 9.72%6Undergrad
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