If you default on student loans, credit repair is possible. The world isn’t over — you’ll still be able to borrow money again in the future, so long as you take the steps necessary to repair your credit.
These steps include getting out of default, paying your bills on time, working away at your debt and eventually applying for credit (as needed) to improve your debt-to-credit ratio. We won’t lie: This can be a lengthy process. But once you get started, you could see your score start to rise in just a matter of a few months.
Default on Your Student Loan? Credit Repair May Be Needed
Credit scores range from 300 to 850. This score is calculated by examining a person’s current debt, the type and number of accounts they have open, their credit history, credit utilization, and payment history.
As you know, student loan default can have a big impact on that credit score. If your payment is missed or late for a given period of time, or if you stop making payments completely, student loan default can be the result. Your credit score and report will reflect a poor payment history, and when it comes time to finance a car, apply for an apartment, or do anything else that will require a peek at your credit score, you’ll look risky to lenders and creditors.
How to Recover From Defaulted Student Loans
Step 1: Getting Out of Default
In order to repair your credit, you need to get out of student loan default first.
When you default on your loan, it can be sent to collections, at which point you will be notified, usually by mail. If you receive such a notice, the first step is to call the phone number on the letter sent to you to learn about your options.
Typically, you have three possibilities in this scenario:
- Pay Your Loans Off: The simplest way to get out of student loan default is to pay off your loan in full. This is obviously easier said than done, as the average student loan balance is in the tens of thousands of dollars.
However, if you have a family member who can help you out by loaning you money at a lower interest rate, let’s say, then this might be a reasonable option. A sudden windfall, like an inheritance, could also suddenly make this a viable option.
- Rehabilitate Your Loans: You might be able to work with your loan servicer or collections agency on a plan to make a series of affordable monthly payments. When you call, explain that you want to get out of default and can only pay a certain amount each month.
The benefit of loan rehabilitation is that, as long as you make your monthly payments on time for that given period of time, you will most likely be able to remove the default status from your credit report.
- Consolidate Your Loans: If you have several federal student loans, you can choose to consolidate them into one, which will count as a payment and bring you out of default. In order to qualify for consolidation (and note, this is for federal rather than private student loans), you have two choices: You can make three on-time payments before applying for the federal Direct Consolidation loan, or you can apply for an income-driven repayment plan, which will set your monthly payments on the new loan at a portion of your disposable income to make repayment more affordable.
Step 2: Pay Off Other Debts
Your credit utilization makes up 30% of your credit score, so if you have other debts, like credit cards or a car loan, your next step should be to lower those balances once your student loans are under control.
If your credit card interest rates are well above your student loan interest rates, it would be wise to focus on paying those as quickly as possible, since mathematically speaking, paying off the debt with the higher interest rate first will save the most money over time.
Additionally, if your credit cards are maxed out, it will not reflect well on your credit score. You need to have as much “space” — that is, available credit — as possible. Consider opening a new line of credit in addition to paying down your loans so you can increase your credit utilization. (Just don’t rack up any new debt).
Step 3: Pay All Your Bills On Time
If you struggle with your other bills, like your phone bill or your mortgage, it’s time to sit down and take a long hard look at your finances to ensure you always pay your bills on time. It’s more important than you might think: Your payment history is the most significant factor of your score, at 35%.
This is one of the many reasons people turn to secured credit cards to raise their credit score after student loan default. By paying a deposit, you’ll receive a credit card equal to the amount of the deposit (or maybe more, depending on the creditor). Every month that you pay your bill on time, the lender will report it to the credit bureaus. As a result, your payment history will improve and so will your credit score.
However, if you’re late on a payment, it will have a negative impact on your credit, so be sure to pay your bills on time, every time, and your credit score will improve as time passes.
Step 4: Rinse, Repeat, and Be Patient
Unfortunately, building up your credit is not often an easy or quick process. You have to consistently pay your bills on time, maintain low credit card balances, and periodically open new lines of credit (that you don’t max out) to keep pushing your score higher.
If you do all of these things and are patient, you will be well on your way to repairing your credit after student loan default. Many people have done it before you, and although going into default is never a good thing, you definitely have options for having financial success in the future.
Kristina Byas contributed to this report.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
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1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
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 3.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.49% 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 April 17, 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 04/17/2019. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
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.
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.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. 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. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
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.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
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 2.48% effective April 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.49% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 6.65%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.41%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.11%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.98% – 9.72%6||Undergrad & Graduate|