Refinancing 101: Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?

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In years past, you were stuck with your student loan interest rates and repayment plan. But as more and more borrowers felt the pinch of student loan repayment, a new industry was born to help make things more manageable: student loan refinancing.

You might have heard about student loan refinancing, but you might not know if it’s right for you. In this guide, you’ll learn what you need in order to decide whether to refinance your student loans.

What is student loan refinancing?

Student loan refinancing is the process of obtaining a new loan at a new interest rate. Typically, you can refinance both your federal and private student loans, which involves paying off your old loans and getting a new one with different repayment terms and (hopefully) a better interest rate.

Student loan refinancing is different from consolidation, though many people erroneously use the terms. Consolidation typically refers to taking out a Direct Consolidation Loan and combining all your federal student loans into one loan with one interest rate.

While there are some similarities with refinancing, consolidation doesn’t offer any interest savings. Private student loan borrowers aren’t eligible for consolidation. As a result, refinancing can be a good option for private student loan borrowers or those with a combination of federal and private student loans.

The key benefit of refinancing is the potential to save money in interest over the life of the loan. For example, as of July 1, 2019, federal Direct PLUS loans have an interest rate of 7.08%. Through refinancing, you could get approved for a much lower rate, saving you a lot of money.

Using the extra savings, you could pay more money toward your principal balance, invest or start an emergency savings fund.

Should you refinance? What to consider first

Student loan refinancing is a great way to make payments more manageable, but there are important things to consider before you decide to refinance your student loans.

Through the process of refinancing, you are essentially applying for a private loan. If you already have private loans, that might not be an issue. But if you have federal student loans, you’ll give up your federal student loan protections, including:

  • Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans: IDR plans are a smart option for those struggling to afford their payments. With a longer repayment term and a monthly payment that is a percentage of your discretionary income, you can dramatically reduce your minimum payment with an IDR plan. But when you refinance, you’re ineligible for IDR plans.
  • Loan forgiveness: Federal student loans have some loan forgiveness options, such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness When you refinance, you’re no longer eligible for these programs.
  • Deferment and forbearance: If you fall on serious financial hardship, postponing your payments through deferment or forbearance can help. But if you refinance, you may have limited options to postpone your payments.

When you refinance your student loans, you work with a private lender and lose out on the federal protections offered to you with your federal student loans. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look into refinancing as a viable option, but it’s something to consider before moving forward.

The process of refinancing is irreversible, so you can’t go back and get these benefits at a later date. Once you refinance, you’re going to be with your refinancing company for the duration of your repayment.

How to determine your refinancing eligibility

Because student loan refinancing companies are private lenders, there is more than one option for student loan refinancing. There are many companies in our student loan refinance marketplace from which you can choose. Before you pick one, it’s key to determine whether you’re eligible for a refinancing loan.

Student loan refinancing companies tend to have stricter eligibility terms than you’d have with federal loans. Before you go through the hassle of applying, do your research on the requirements for each lender.

Most lenders require you to have a good credit score, though each lender is different. Lenders also want proof of a stable income and cash flow to support your new loan.

If your credit isn’t great, or if you don’t make enough money, you might need a cosigner to qualify for a loan. A cosigner acts as a guarantee to the lender. If you fall behind on your payments, the cosigner becomes responsible for repayment. Having a cosigner reduces the risk to the lender, making it more likely to approve you for a loan.

To find out if you qualify, research several different student loan refinancing lenders and review their eligibility requirements. Be sure to read the fine print since refinancing may not be available in all states.

How to find the best student loan refinancing company for you

Once you’ve assessed your eligibility and narrowed it down to a few possibilities, it’s time to choose the best lender for you. Here are some questions to ask that could help you find the best lender for you:

  • Does the lender offer fixed or variable interest rates?
  • How much could you save with their interest rate? Use our student loan refinancing calculator to see estimate potential savings.
  • What are the repayment terms and how will that affect your monthly payment?
  • Do the lenders offer any perks? For example, some allow you to make interest-only payments if you experience financial hardship.
  • What are others saying about the lender? Does it have a good reputation?
  • Is there an origination fee or prepayment penalty?
  • What are the minimum and maximum amounts of debt it will refinance?
  • What kind of customer support does it offer? Is it easily accessible?

After doing a comparative analysis between lenders, pick your top three and start applying.

Why three? Even after you’ve assessed your eligibility and chosen your top three lenders, you still have to get approved for refinancing. Each lender has its own requirements, and some are stricter than others. Depending on your credit score and your income, one lender might be more likely to approve you than another.

In the end, you want to have options and find the best lender for you.

How to prepare for refinancing

Before you apply for student loan refinancing, do a quick financial audit and prepare some documents to help the process move along smoothly. Here are some steps to take to prepare for refinancing:

  • List all your federal and private student loan totals.
  • Write down your loans’ interest rates next to the total.
  • Create a third column and include your loan servicer’s information, including phone, email and mailing address.
  • Gather your most recent pay stubs.
  • Collect last year’s tax return.
  • Check your credit reports from the three major bureaus using AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • Check your credit score for free at LendingTree.

Taking these steps can help you prepare to refinance your loans and have all your information in one place.

Choosing your refinancing terms

Through student loan refinancing, you may be able to choose from various repayment terms and interest rates.

Consider your repayment term and assess how it will affect your monthly payment. In other words, will your monthly payment be going up, staying the same, or going down? It all depends on the repayment terms that you choose.

Most refinancing companies offer repayment terms between five and 20 years. Of course, we believe it’s best to pay off your loans as quickly as possible. But you should also make sure that whatever repayment term you choose is manageable for you and allows you to reach other financial goals, too, such as saving for retirement.

With interest rates, assess the impact of choosing a fixed or variable rate. Fixed rates are typically a tad higher than variable rates — but they are fixed, meaning they won’t go up or down over the life of your loan.

Variable rates tend to be lower and can be an attractive option. Variable interest rates are tied to the markets — often the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR).

Before you opt for a variable rate to save money, understand that rates can increase anytime. You could end up with a higher interest rate down the line than if you had selected the fixed-rate option.

If you think you can aggressively pay off your loans in a few years, a variable-rate loan could help you achieve that. But if you choose a longer repayment term, you may be better off with a fixed interest rate.

To save extra money on interest, see if your prospective lender offers autopay discounts. Some lenders will reduce your interest rate by 0.25%, which can help you save money over time.

Deciding to refinance your student loans

Refinancing your student loans could be a great way to save money on your student loans, but it’s still a major financial decision. Carefully assess the costs and the benefits of student loan refinancing and choose what’s right for you.

Ready to refinance your loans? Compare offers from multiple student loan refinancing companies to make sure you get your best rate and loan repayment terms.

Rebecca Safier and Melanie Lockert contributed to this article.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 5 lenders of 2020!
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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE (“APR”)
This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

FEE INFORMATION

There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.

LOAN AMOUNT

For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
For eligible Associates degrees in the healthcare field (see Eligibility & Eligible Loans section below), Lender will refinance up to $50,000 in loans for non-ParentPlus refinance loans. Note, parents who are refinancing loans taken out on behalf of a child who has obtained an associates degrees in an eligible healthcare field are not subject to the $50,000 loan maximum, refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for more information about refinancing ParentPlus loans.

ELIGIBILITY & ELIGIBLE LOANS

Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).

Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.

All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.

For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.

INTEREST RATES

The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.

DISBURSEMENT OPTIONS

The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.

POSTPONING OR REDUCING PAYMENTS

After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.

If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of March 4, 2020 and is subject to change.


2 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Splash Financial loans are available through arrangements with lending partners. Your loan application will be submitted to the lending partner and be evaluated at their sole discretion. For loans where a credit union is the lender, or a purchaser of the loan, in order to refinance your loans, you will need to become a credit union member.

The Splash Student Loan Refinance Program is not offered or endorsed by any college or university. Neither Splash Financial nor the lending partner are affiliated with or endorse any college or university listed on this website.

You should review the benefits of your federal student loan; it may offer specific benefits that a private refinance/consolidation loan may not offer. If you work in the public sector, are in the military or taking advantage of a federal department of relief program, such as income based repayment or public service forgiveness, you may not want to refinance, as these benefits do not transfer to private refinance/consolidation loans.

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 May 1, 2020.

Fixed APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rate options range from 2.88% (without autopay) to 7.27% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.88% per year to 6.21% per year for a 5-year term, 3.40% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term, 3.45% to 5.08% for a 8-year term, 3.89% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term, 4.18% per year to 5.11% per year for a 12-year term, 4.20% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term, or 4.51% 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 Rate will not change during the term. Repayment examples are for illustrative purposes only. The following Fixed Rate examples are based on a $10,000 loan amount using the lowest APR for each application term listed above. All student loan rates used in calculating the examples are shown without the autopay discount (.25%). There are no application or origination fees, and no prepayment penalties. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 2.88% per year for a 5-year term would be $179.15. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 3.40% for a 7-year term would be $134.17. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 3.45% for a 8-year term would be $119.35. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 3.89% for a 10-year term would be $100.72. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 4.18% for a 12-year term would be $88.43. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 4.20% for a 15-year term would be $74.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 4.51% for a 20-year term would be from $63.32.

Variable APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Variable rate options range from 1.99% (with autopay) to 7.10% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Our lowest rate option is shown with a 0.25% autopay discount. Our highest rate option does not include an autopay discount. The variable rates are based on the Variable rate index, is 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 April 27, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.43763%. The interest rate on a variable rate loan is comprised of an index and margin added together. The margin is a fixed amount (disclosed at the time of your loan application) added each month to the index to determine the next month’s variable rate. Variable rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.01% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term, 4.00% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term, 2.09% per year to 3.92% per year for a 8-year term, 4.25% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 2.67% per year to 4.56% per year for a 12-year term, 3.44% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term, 4.75% per year to 6.93% per year for a 20-year term, or 5.14% per year to 7.10% for a 25-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. Variable interest rates 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. The maximum variable rate may be between 9.00% and 16.00%, depending on loan term. The floor rate may be between 0.54% and 4.21%, depending on loan term. 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.
Variable APRs and amounts subject to increase or decrease. Variable rates are indexed to the one-month LIBOR rate. The following Variable Rate examples are based on a $10,000 loan amount. Repayment examples are for illustrative purposes only. All student loan rates below are shown without the autopay discount (.25%). There are no application or origination fees, and no prepayment penalties. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 2.01% per year for a 5-year term would be $175.32. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 4.00% for a 7-year term would be $136.69. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 2.09% for a 8-year term would be $113.21. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 4.25% for a 10-year term would be $102.44. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 with an APR of 2.67% for a 12-year term would be $81.24. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 3.44% for a 15-year term would be $71.19. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 4.75% for a 20-year term would be from $64.62. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan with an APR of 5.14% for a 25-year term would be from $59.28.

 


3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.49% APR to 6.67% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 3.21% APR to 6.67% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loanSee APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 3.21% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 0.45% plus 2.82% 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. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. 

4 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 3.21% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.67% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 3.21% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.67% 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 May 22, 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 5/022/2020. 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.

© 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.


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 0.8100000000000002% effective April 10, 2020.


1.99% – 6.65%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.99% – 7.10%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

3.21% – 6.67%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

3.21% – 6.67%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

3.21% – 6.69%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.