6 Student Loan Refinancing Mistakes That Could Cost You — and How to Avoid Them

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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.

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Lower interest rate, shorter loan period, more money in your pocket. The potential outcomes of student loan refinancing can sound appealing. And for some people, refinancing is a smart way to consolidate debt and potentially reduce the cost of student loans.

But refinancing doesn’t guarantee a lower interest rate, and refinancing federal student loans may cause you to miss out on options for student loan forgiveness. Consider, too, what could happen if you lose your job after refinancing and can no longer afford to make payments.

Before signing on the dotted line, make sure you’re not making any of these student loan refinancing mistakes:

1. Checking your rates with only one lender
2. Thinking you have to refinance all of your loans
3. Not comparing different repayment plans
4. Giving up federal loan protections (if you need them)
5. Not finding a cosigner
6. Prematurely stopping payments on your old student loans
How to avoid student loan refinancing mistakes

1. Checking your rates with only one lender

It’s essential to thoroughly compare refinancing offers before you commit to one. Offers differ among potential customers based on factors including your credit score and overall financial picture. That’s why a great lender for someone else may not be the best for your situation.

To evaluate your options, consider requesting a rate quote from multiple lenders online. You’ll enter a few basic pieces of information, including your total student debt, income and education level. You’ll then undergo a soft credit check to give the lender a sense of your financial history.

This soft check won’t hurt your credit score. Then, you’ll be able to quickly compare fixed and variable interest rates and different repayment terms. Most lenders offer terms between five and 20 years.

Once you’ve reviewed offers, you can look more closely at the lenders offering the best rates for you. Understand what fees you might be subject to, including late payment fees. Check how easy it is to get in touch with customer service and what options are available if you need a lower payment or more flexibility in the future.

Whatever your criteria for choosing a lender, make sure to shop around. That way, you can find the best deal for refinancing your student loans.

2. Thinking you have to refinance all of your loans

Be strategic about which loans you choose to refinance. Depending on your situation, it might make sense to refinance just one of your loans or to refinance multiple loans together.

Student loan interest rates should be a major factor in deciding which loans to refinance. Federal student loans have a standard interest rate that varies by year, but when you get a loan, that rate will be fixed for its entire term. Private loans can have a wide range of interest rates, depending on the borrower’s credit and financial history. For example, the fixed interest rate for federal direct loans for undergraduates for the 2019-2020 academic year is 4.53%. Fixed interest rates on Sallie Mae private student loans for undergraduates, on the other hand, currently range from 4.74%* to 11.35%* APR (which include a discount for making automatic payments). If you have student loans with interest rates higher than 5%, it may be worth seeing if you could get a lower rate by refinancing. But you can choose not to refinance loans that already have comparatively low rates.

Additionally, some borrowers might benefit from refinancing their private student loans, but not their federal ones. When you refinance federal student loans, you lose access to helpful federal programs like income-driven repayment (IDR) and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). It’s possible to leave your federal loans alone, and to refinance only private loans into a single new loan.

3. Not comparing different repayment plans

Before choosing a repayment plan for your new refinanced loan, it’s important to run the numbers. Compare your old term and interest rate with the new ones you’ll get through refinancing. You’ll see exactly how much you’ll save on a lower interest rate or shorter repayment term. Or, if you need lower monthly payments, you’ll see how your new loan will affect your budget.

For example, let’s say you have eight years remaining on your old student loan balance of $30,000. Altogether, these loans have a weighted average interest rate of 6.80%. When you apply for refinancing, you qualify for a 4.75% interest rate.

On a seven-year repayment plan, you’ll pay just $15 more each month but save $3,657 in interest over time. On a five-year repayment plan, you’ll pay $157 more per month but save $5,217 total in interest. Plus, you’ll get out of debt three years ahead of schedule.

By crunching the numbers with a student loan refinancing calculator, you can see how refinancing your loans to a lower interest rate or different term will affect your payments. In general, the shorter the loan term, the less money you’ll pay in interest over time, but it can be smart to choose a loan repayment amount that fits your monthly budget, too.

4. Giving up federal loan protections (if you need them)

When you refinance federal loans, you turn them into private loans. As a result, you lose access to federal benefits like IDR plans, which lower monthly payments to a percentage of your income, and loan forgiveness programs. Whether you can afford to forfeit these options depends on your goals and career path.

If you’re working toward federal loan forgiveness, you shouldn’t refinance your loans. If you suspect your income might drop in the future, it may be wise to keep your federal student loans and maintain access to IDR plans so you can lower your monthly payments as needed. Plus, you may not save much on interest if the rates on your federal loans are close to what you’d get by refinancing.

But it’s also important to know what refinance lenders may offer in forgiveness-type opportunities. For example, some private lenders offer flexible repayment terms or forbearance in case of financial hardship. Speak with potential lenders about your concerns; they can help answer “what if?” questions so you can refinance your student loans with a full understanding of what you’re gaining and what you may be giving up.

5. Not finding a cosigner

One way to unlock the best student loan refinancing rates is to be a competitive applicant with very strong credit. That could be the case if you scored a lucrative job out of college, are free of other debt and earn a large income. But if not, you may be able to access lower interest rates by applying with a cosigner.

Your cosigner could be a parent, a partner or another person with strong credit and solid income. They should know, though, that they take on risk when cosigning a loan. If you can’t repay the loan, the cosigner is responsible for it.

Talking through expectations alongside contingency plans if, say, you were unable to pay the bill due to a job loss, can help make sure you’re both on the same page and enable you to decide if a cosigner is the right option for you.

6. Prematurely stopping payments on your old student loans

From start to finish, the process of refinancing your student loans usually takes a few weeks. In the meantime, you must continue making payments on your original loans. If you miss payments, your loan could become delinquent or go into default, which could seriously dent your credit score.

Before you stop paying your original student loan, make sure you receive confirmation from your new lender that the new loan has been issued, and set up your first payment. Log in to your old loan account to make sure the balance has dropped to $0, which confirms that your new lender has paid it off.

Once you get the green light from your new lender and are confident the old loan balance is $0, you’re ready to make payments toward the new loan only.

How to avoid student loan refinancing mistakes

Before making changes to your student loans, do your research. Thoroughly understanding how refinancing works can help you avoid the above mistakes.

As long as you’ve thought through your options, refinancing can be a smart financial move. You could simplify your monthly payments and save on interest over time.

For more debt payoff inspiration, here are some of the best tips for paying off your student loans faster.

*Rate accurate as of August 20, 2019.

Anna Davies contributed to this repor

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 8 lenders of 2019!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 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 3.45% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.89% 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 November 21, 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 11/21/2019. 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 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.


2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.46% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% APR (without AutoPay). Variable rates currently from 2.31% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% (without 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 2.31% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.31% plus 0.75% margin minus 0.25% for AutoPay. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your credit history and the term of the loan 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. 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.

3 Important Disclosures for Figure.

Figure Disclosures

Figure’s Student Refinance Loan is a private loan. If you refinance federal loans, you forfeit certain flexible repayment options associated with those loans. If you expect to incur financial hardship that would impact your ability to repay, you should consider federal consolidation alternatives.


4 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 November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.


5 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.


6 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 1.76% effective November 10, 2019.


7 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.

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 12/07/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.59% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


8 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

College Ave Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.

2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.

4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 12/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

1.99% – 6.89%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.31% – 7.36%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.21% – 6.21%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Figure

1.99% – 6.65%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.43% – 7.60%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.85% – 6.13%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.90% – 8.59%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.74% – 6.25%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit College Ave

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.