A student loan refinance involves replacing one or more student loans with a new loan with better terms from a private lender. Both private and federal student loans can be refinanced. The purpose of refinancing is to get a lower interest rate and thereby reduce the monthly payments and lifetime costs. Many private lenders, including banks, online lenders, and credit unions offer student loan refinance loans. People with federal loans can also consolidate—rather than refinance—their debts. Debt consolidation involves combining multiple federal loans into a single loan with one simple monthly payment. The table below shows a sample of rates for student loan refinances compared to rates for first-time private and federal student loans. The Refinance column shows the lowest rates advertised by each lender. The First-Time Column shows fixed rates for federal government loans and lowest rates from private lenders.
|Refinanced Student Loans||First-Time Student Loans|
|2.51% Variable / 3.49% Fixed (LendKey)||4.45% (Federal Stafford Subsidized Loan)|
|2.57% Variable / 3.89% Fixed (Earnest)||4.45-6.00% (Federal Stafford Unsubsidized)|
|2.47% Variable / 3.89% Fixed (SoFi)||5% (Federal Perkins Loan)|
|3.14 % Variable /3.75% Fixed (Splash Financial)||7% (Federal (PLUS Loan)|
|2.72% Variable / 3.20% Fixed (CommonBond)||3.93% Variable / 5.30% Fixed (CommonBond)|
As the above table shows, it is often worth refinancing a student loan. If you’ve graduated from college and have built a good credit score, then you can achieve a much lower interest rate by refinancing—and potentially save thousands of dollars in the long run.
Things to take into consideration before refinancing:
|Potential for major savings over life of loan||With longer term, potential to pay more over life of loan|
|Reduced monthly payments||Applying for refinance can affect credit score|
|One single payment makes life easier||By refinancing federal loan, you waive rights to cancellation or forgiveness programs|
|More flexible repayment terms|
|Option of dropping previous co-signer from loan|
Eligibility can vary slightly between lenders, but the following are standard requirements for most refinance loans:
Lenders also look at the following:
A student loan refinance application is similar to other loan or refinance applications. It involves the following steps:
|Greater chance of approval||Co-signer takes on liability for debts|
|Reduced interest rate if co-signer has good credit||Damage to co-signer’s credit score in event of missed payments|
|Flexibility to release co-signer at pre-determined date in future||Potential damage to relationship with co-signer over financial matters|
A co-signer can be a:
In many cases, recent graduates don’t have the credit history or income to be approved for a student loan refi unless they bring a co-signer. By bringing a co-signer with good credit and income, the lender is more likely to approve the refinance and to offer a low interest rate. Bringing on a co-signer involves more paperwork than applying alone. The lender will ask for documentation from both the primary borrower and their co-signer. A credit inquiry will be performed for both people.It might not be easy to find a co-signer. After all, not everyone would be open to sharing your financial liability. However, if a parent, relative, or close friend agrees to co-sign your refi, you may be able to sweeten the deal by agreeing to release them in the future. For example, student loans can last anywhere from 5 years to more than 20 years. If you’re taking out a 20-year loan but envision having stronger credit in 5 years, you could state in your loan agreement that the co-signer can be released after 5 years. When you reach the 5-year mark, you’ll need to show the lender that you have strong credit and sufficient income to maintain the loan on your own.
If you have private student loans or private and federal loans, refinancing could be the best way to save money. But if you only have federal loans, you may want to consider debt consolidation or any of the federal government’s loan forgiveness or cancellation programs.
If you’re unable to meet the minimum payments, these are just some of the programs for being forgiven all or a portion of your loan amount:
A student loan involves a great deal of risk and reward. For most students, the risk comes from taking out tens of thousands of dollars in loans when they are at their most vulnerable—young, not-yet employed, and with no credit history. On the flipside, the reward comes by graduating and finding a job in their chosen profession. In reality, many graduates find themselves unable to pay off all their student debt. Fortunately, there are ways to cancel or at least reduce your debt payments. Many students qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation programs, but even those who don’t qualify for federal assistance can apply for a student loan refinance and save potentially thousands of dollars as a result.