Student loan refinancing has gained some major traction in the past several years, with many companies offering help to student loan borrowers. However, even though you have the option to refinance your loans, it doesn’t always mean it’s the best thing for you.
There’s a plethora of information you need to understand about student loan financing including but not limited to:
• How does the process work
• What will it mean for you
• What are federal loans and private loans
What Should You Understand About Student Loan Refinancing?
This is when you take out a new student loan to pay an old student loan debt off. It’s similar to what you do when you pay off credit cards with a personal loan debt or when you’re refinancing an auto loan with a high-interest rate to another loan with a lower rate. You’re trading one loan for another loan at a better rate to save yourself money.
The great thing about student loan refinancing companies is that they’ll pay off the old loan for you while the new one is getting prepared.
The Change To Your Repayment Plans and Amounts
With a federal student loan, you can reach out to your lender and make changes to your repayment plan. Federal loans provide an array of repayment options to choose from:
• Extended plans
• Graduated plans
• Income-based repayment plans
Private student loans generally don’t have flexibility like this. Therefore, if you desire a lower interest rate or payment, you must refinance your current loan.
Student Loan Refinancing vs. Student Loan Consolidation: What Is The Difference?
Most people use the terms consolidation and refinancing interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing.
Consolidation means taking all your federal loans and rolling them into a single federal student loan for free. It’s a program the Department of Education provides to student loan borrowers with multiple federal loans.
Refinancing means taking a private loan out to replace the other student loans. The reason for the confusion is that a person may consolidate more than one loan by lumping them into one big loan.
Both private and federal loans can be refinanced – private loans cannot be consolidated. Therein lies the confusion.
What To Consider When Going Through The Student Loan Refinancing Process
The key thing to consider in the student loan refinancing process is what the new loan will do to your payment each month and how the company made it happen. There are two ways in which these companies alter your payment:
• Loan length
• Interest rate
The biggest way you’ll save money is to reduce your loan’s interest rate. If you have a loan for the early 2000s, you could refinance the loan into a lower interest rate.
If your credit score has significantly improved since the loan was originally taken out, you could qualify for a better interest rate.
You could also lower your monthly payments by extending the length of the loan. Is your current loan due to pay off in 10 years? You can cut your payments in half by increasing that to a 20-year loan. Bear in mind that the longer you take to pay off your loans, the more interest you’ll pay.
Is It Possible To Refinance Private Loans?
Are you able to refinance already-established private loans? Of course. You just need to refinance the student loans into another private student loan. It’s no different than refinancing your house or vehicle.
If there’s a big enough drop in the interest rate, refinancing the loan makes financial sense. Remember, you can’t just pick up the phone and tell the lender you can’t make your payments and want to lower the rate. You have to take out a new loan. This is why student loan refinancing is so beneficial.
Before you even do this, you need to see if there are any prepayment penalties to the private student loans. Some loans also won’t let you refinance for a year and will charge you a penalty if you do it.
Is It Possible To Refinance Federal Student Loans?
Most federal student loan borrowers wonder if it makes sense to refinance their loans. If you have a federal student loan with an interest rate of seven percent, it makes sense to refinance the loan. However, you should understand that refinancing the federal student loans into a private loan means you may lose out on some beneficial help later on.
Can Multiple Loans Be Refinanced Together?
Absolutely! If you have several individual loans you’d like to lump into one bigger loan, you can do this. This is where people mistake consolidating and refinancing terms. If you have several private student loans, you can simplify the payment process by paying off the smaller loans with one bigger loan. If you have both private and federal loans, don’t combine them until you know it’s right for you.
Is It Possible To Refinance Loans Over and Over?
What if you decide to refinance your loans today and notice that interest rates have dropped once more two years from now, can you refinance the loans again? The answer is yes but so long as there is no stipulation on that loan.
Many lenders provide flexible repayment terms but will adhere to the usual 10, 15 or 20-year repayment amount.
When Should You Refinance Student Loans
When is the right time to refinance your student loans? It’s before you must refinance them. What does this mean?
Most people wait until they can no longer pay on their debt before they start the refinancing process. Your credit score will play an integral part in whether or not you will be approved for refinancing. If you start missing payments, your credit score will start to drop, and you could be denied for the new loan or may need a co-signer. There are two instances in which you should consider a student loan refinance:
You Just Graduated From College
This is the time that you need to get your financial affairs in order. If you have several loans, you can refinance them to become one. This ensures a more manageable, affordable payment plan.
The Interest Rate Dropped By At Least One Percent
You should take a look at your loans at least once a year. If you see the interest rate has dropped one percent or more, you may want to refinance them into another loan. This could help you save money, but be aware not to add to more time on the loan.
When You Know The Time Is Right Or Wrong For Student Loan Refinancing
So, now the question remains – should you attempt the refinancing process of your student loans?
Yes only if:
• You need a lower payment on your private student loans.
• The interest rate has decreased by one percent or more on the existing private loans.
• You have multiple private student loans.
• You have a standard 10-year plan for your federal student loans and are not qualified for income-based repayment plans or forgiveness.
No, in cases of:
• Trying to consolidate several federal loans (go with student loan consolidation).
• No need to change the repayment plan or amount.
• You qualify for income-based repayment plans for your federal loans.
• You can use student loan forgiveness programs for your federal loans.
• You have no co-signer to eliminate from the loan.
Comparing The Different Refinancing Companies
If refinancing your student loans makes sense for you, you need to look at the various student loan refinancing companies. Be sure you do your research and look for lenders with the best interest rate, a reasonable term length and no fees.
You also need to consider the idea that you may need a co-signer. You don’t want one on your loan, but if you’re asked to provide one, you want to make sure there are provisions in place for them. Most companies offer a cosigner release agreement that stipulates that a release can be done after three years of on-time payments.
Consider using a comparison engine such as Credible to help you shop for loans for nearly all student loan lenders.
What You Should Keep In Mind About Student Loan Refinancing
There are situations where student loan refinancing makes great sense and other situations where they don’t. You can certainly save yourself money but do some research first before you go through with the process.
Many refinancing lenders have been aggressive in tactics to get people to refinance their student loans. However, if you have federal loans, it may be best not to refinance those loans.
You also have a better understanding of what student loan consolidation and student loan refinancing means – no more confusion there.