There are so many student loan repayment options out there that it can feel overwhelming.
If you’re facing student loan debt, what will work best for you is going to depend on a lot of different factors, including the amount of your debt, your income, your life goals, and even your personality.
But don’t worry – if you’re unsure of where to start, there are a handful of online tools that can help kick off your repayment plan with little work on your end.
5 Tools for Student Loan Repayment Help
Here’s an overview of some of the best tools to help with student loan repayment. Which will you choose?
1. National Student Loan Data System
Before you can start seriously investigating student loan repayment options, you need to know what you owe.
When it comes to federal loans, the best way to find out is to log in to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). This government tool will show you your total federal student loan debt, as well as break down individual loans by type.
Tip: Here’s how to use NSLDS to find your student loans.
The drawback to using the NSLDS to find your student loans is that it only shows federal loans.
If you have private student loans and/or consumer debt in the form of credit cards, auto loans, a mortgage, etc., visit annualcreditreport.com to see your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus and get a complete picture of your financial situation.
If you spot errors on your report, you can also take action to have them removed or resolved.
Tip: Annualcreditreport.com is the only website where you can see your credit reports once a year for free (you cannot view your scores here, though). All other websites will charge you money to pull your credit reports.
3. Automatic payments
Once you find all your student loan servicers, you want to make sure you stay current on payments and also pay as little in interest as possible. Making automatic payments – often referred to as “auto-pay” – is one approach to student loan repayment that can help you achieve both of these goals at once.
By signing up for automatic payments through your student loan servicer’s account, you not only ensure you never miss a payment, but may also be eligible for an interest rate reduction of 0.25%.
Tip: Even if you’re still deciding on an overall repayment strategy, this is an easy way to save a bit of money and put payments on autopilot. Just be sure you keep an eye on your bank accounts and avoid overdrafting, which would defeat the purpose.
4. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 – known more simply as the Dodd-Frank Act – established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
According to its website, the CFPB “helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives.”
In addition to providing resources for student loan repayment help, the CFPB also allows you to submit a complaint or share your story if you feel you’ve been mistreated by your student loan servicer (or the provider of any financial product).
Tip: When you submit a complaint on the CFPB website, the organization will forward your complaint along to the company in question and work to get you a response and resolve the issue. Ideally, you won’t ever need this service, but it’s certainly nice to have it available if you need it.
5. Student Loan Hero
Once you’ve tracked down your federal and private debt and servicers, signing up for a Student Loan Hero account can aggregate all of that information in one place for you.
Having a snapshot of the “big picture” in front of you can help you formulate an overall strategy for student loan repayment that is meaningful to you.
And in case you need assistance determining the best place to start, Student Loan Hero also provides analysis, calculators, and recommendations to pay off your debts that are tailored to your particular situation. This may help you decide whether something like refinancing or consolidation is right for you.
Tip: Check out our full list of student loan calculators here. Compare repayment plans, interest rates, and more to find out what repayment strategy will save you the most money over time.
Figure Out What Works for You
Whatever resources you need or find useful, remember that student loan repayment is a personal process that should be driven by your priorities, goals, and finances. Don’t feel pressured by your peers or family to pay more aggressively than is comfortable for you.
Similarly, don’t feel that you should “live it up” and spend money on things that aren’t important to you if a debt-free life is your ultimate goal.
And remember: if you can’t afford your minimum payments, reach out to your servicer and/or investigate private lending options so that you end up with the repayment that aligns with your needs.
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