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6 Actions to Take Before Applying for Student Loan Refinancing

July 12, 2016

Student loan refinancing options are growing at a historic pace, offering more opportunities to lower monthly payments and interest rates and reduce the cost of education debt. With an increasing desire to find a smarter way to pay off student loans, borrowers will undoubtedly embark upon the process with different needs and goals. Whether you are just now beginning to think about student loan refinancing, have done some research, or are ready to contact a lender, being prepared at the outset will go a long way towards streamlining the application process.

As education loan repayment options increase, choosing the right program can become somewhat daunting, so we have outlined the basics for you. Improve the likelihood of an efficient process — and approval with better rates and terms— by addressing these six concepts BEFORE applying:

  1. Do the Math

When comparing refinancing options, the first step involves gathering and making yourself aware of the interest rates and monthly payment amounts of your current loans. This is an important first step in the process, as it will help determine how much money you could save per month and over the life of your loan(s), especially if your loan were to be refinanced through a private lender, such as Education Loan Finance. Review the current interest rates on all of your education loans before refinancing, and consider whether excluding loans that already have low-interest rates, or consolidating your entire student loan debt into one loan with one monthly payment, makes sense for you. Fortunately, Education Loan Finance offers a convenient education loan payment estimator that easily calculates this information for each of its repayment options, allowing you to choose which loan term best meets your budget goals.

  1. Ensure Eligibility

Some lenders only work with borrowers who have a minimum amount of debt, attended a certain school, hold a particular degree, work within a specific career field, or reside in a particular state. Before you invest time preparing an application, review each lender’s requirements to ensure that you have met the basic criteria. For instance, to be eligible to refinance a student loan with Education Loan Finance, you must have:

  • A minimum of $15,000 in student loan debt.
  • Earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
  • A debt-to-income ratio that indicates a borrower’s capacity to repay the loan.
  • U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status at the age of majority or older.
  1. Review Credit Scores

Before applying, you should access (and save) your credit report to ensure that there are no errors or issues that may negatively impact your score. Doing this will help eliminate any surprises during the application process, but most importantly, a credit score review will help you determine if you need to start establishing better credit. Higher credit scores increase the likelihood of getting approved and receiving lower interest rates because lenders view borrowers with higher scores as a better investment. Under federal law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies every 12 months. For more information, visit www.annualcreditreport.com.

  1. Pay Down Other Debt

Reducing your debt-to-income ratio is a key element in receiving better interest rates and loan terms. For many individuals, simply reducing credit card debt before applying for student loan refinancing is a great way to improve credit scores and credit utilization possibilities. In addition, lowering your debt-to-income ratio may help you receive better interest rates and terms on a refinanced student loan. When lenders review your credit report, they are not only reviewing your repayment habits but also how much you owe and what types of debt you have accumulated.  Be sure to pay down any credit card debt — and any other non-student loan debt — as much as practicable.

  1. Gather Financial Documents

A fundamental part of the loan application process involves proving that you, the borrower, are able to repay your loans and hold true to your financial commitments. To do so, gather all pertinent information that proves payment history. While different lenders will ask for different documents, most loan applicants will have to provide their most recent paystubs, tax returns, list of loans and balances, and their student loan servicer’s information.

  1. Understand Federal Loan Details

Federal student loans offer certain options and benefits that many private lenders do not, such as deferments or forbearances that allow the borrower to temporarily reduce or defer payments if they enroll in school or experience financial hardship. When these federal loans are refinanced through a private lender, the borrower may forfeit some special benefits associated with them and should carefully weigh the pros and cons of each program before applying. Individuals who maintain established careers, with reliable income for the foreseeable future, are great candidates for private loan refinancing. On the other hand, someone intending to pursue a full-time, advanced degree may want to postpone refinancing while still in school in order to preserve the benefits of the Federal Loan Program.

The Next Step

Borrowers who have worked through the above steps are one step closer to an easier, smarter financial path– as well as a smoother application process! If you are now ready to apply for student loan refinancing, we want you to know we are here to help. The education loan experts at Education Loan Finance aim to be the leaders in educational financing support for financially-responsible college graduates, and we offer comprehensive options for consolidating and refinancing student loans. Best of all, our application process is streamlined, simple, and ready to help you with your financial future.

Click for Tips on Finding the Perfect Lender to Refinance Student Loans

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2019-12-05
Student Loan Interest vs. Other Interest Types

By Caroline Farhat  

If you have student loans, you’ve probably been told at one point that it’s “good” debt. But what does that really mean? Is any debt actually good or is it all bad? Is the interest you pay on your student loans better than the interest you pay on your auto loan? 

 

As you accumulate more assets, you’ll encounter many different types of interest. It’s helpful to know how each type of interest differs so that you know exactly what you’re getting into when you borrow money. 

What is Student Loan Interest?

Student loan interest is essentially the cost you pay for borrowing the money. When you pay interest, you will be paying back the amount of money you borrowed plus the cost to borrow the money (the interest). The higher the interest rate, the more money you will have to pay in addition to the amount you borrowed. The amount you borrow is called the principal and the cost to borrow the money is called the interest. Interest is charged on both federal student loans and private student loans until the loan is paid in full. When you make a payment on a loan the interest is paid first, any amount of the payment over the interest is applied to the principal and lowers the balance of the loan. The types of rates and how interest is calculated are based on the type of student loan.  

 

Federal Student Loans: The Difference Between Subsidized and Unsubsidized

Federal student loans have fixed interest rates that are set by the government. They remain the same throughout the life of the loan. Also, federal student loan interest rates may be lower than auto loans or personal loans. Federal student loans have two different types of interest: subsidized interest and unsubsidized interest. A subsidized interest loan means the government pays the interest on the loan while you are in school or during deferment (a grace period from federal student loan payments granted for certain situations), which means the balance of the loan does not increase. Once you are out of school or the deferment period ends, you will be responsible for paying the interest on the loan. An unsubsidized federal student loan means the interest starts accruing from the day the loan is first disbursed. Although you may not be required to make payments on the loan while you are in school, you will end up with a loan balance higher than you initially borrowed. The interest on a federal student loan is calculated using the simple interest formula. Here is how to calculate the simple interest formula:

 

The principal (the amount of money you borrowed) X the interest rate = The amount of interest you will pay each year for the loan

 

Private Student Loans: The 411 on Fixed and Variable Interest Rates

Private student loans can have a variable interest rate or a fixed interest rate. A variable interest rate is based on the current market and economy and can change over the life of the loan. A fixed interest rate remains the same throughout the life of the loan. It’s important to note that rates can vary widely based on the student loan lender, which is why it is so important to do your research and only sign with a reputable company. The interest rate you receive on a private student loan is also based on certain financial factors, including your credit score. 

 

For example, ELFI customers who refinanced student loans report saving an average of $309 every month¹. If you currently have private student loans, you can check out our student loan refinance calculator to get an estimated rate and monthly payment for both fixed and variable options.² Whether you’ve taken out federal student loans or private student loans throughout your college journey, consolidating and refinancing could score you some significant savings.

 

Interest On Other Common Loans

If you’re in full adulting mode, odds are you have or are considering getting an auto loan or mortgage. Just like your student loans, these financial products come with interest as well. 

 

Interest rates on car loans can be variable or fixed rates and the rate you receive is based on factors such as your credit score and financial health. There are two ways interest is calculated on car loans: simple or precomputed. For simple interest, the interest is calculated based on the balance of the loan. If you pay extra on your car loan, the principal will be reduced and in the long run, you will be saving money in interest (woohoo). If you have a precomputed interest loan on a car, it will be calculated on the total amount of the loan in advance. This means that even if you make extra payments, you will not save any money on the interest over time. One big difference to note between student loan interest and auto loan interest is how it can affect your taxes. With student loans, the interest you pay may be a tax deduction you can take depending on your income and the amount of interest you have paid. With an auto loan, there is no such benefit.    

 

Interest on a house loan, otherwise known as a mortgage, is calculated similar to a simple interest car loan. An interest rate on a mortgage may be variable or fixed depending on which type of loan you choose. There are two major types of mortgage loans: 

  1. Principal and interest loans - You pay back the interest and the principal (the amount of money you borrowed) at the same time. This is the most common type of mortgage.
  2. Interest-only loans - This is when, for a certain period of time, payments towards the loan only go towards paying off the interest on the loan.
 

Mortgage loans are amortized, like some student loans, which means your payment goes towards more interest upfront. Then as the balance decreases, you pay less interest and the payment goes towards paying down the principal. Also, just as with some student loans, some of the interest you pay on your mortgage may be tax-deductible. 

 

Understanding Interest Can Pay Off

It’s important to understand the different types of interests and loans when determining which debt to focus on paying off first. Being strategic about how and when you pay off your debt can save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars. A good rule of thumb is to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate and then focus on your interest rate debt. Of course, if you have the option to refinance, explore that first and then develop your debt reduction plan.

 
 

¹Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/ Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 8/16/2016 and 10/25/2018. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon a number of factors.

 

²Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. Variable rates may increase after closing.

  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
2019-12-04
Tips for Starting Your Student Loan Repayment Journey

Once you graduate from college, leave college, or drop below half-time enrollment, it’s time to start thinking about when your student loan repayment period kicks in. Understanding the repayment process for your student loans is very important for a number of reasons – for one, if you don’t pay, your interest will accrue. Second, if you don’t pay, it will affect your credit score, which can hinder your ability to buy a home, buy a car, qualify for credit cards, take out a personal loan, or refinance your student loans.   If you graduated this past spring, your student loan repayment period will likely start around this time of year (if they haven’t kicked in already). Follow these tips to master student loan repayment and get yourself to a strong financial start after college.  

Know How to Access Your Loan Information

A good first step is to acquire your loan information. This can typically be accessed via an online login. Monitoring your loan information will be essential during the course of repayment. If you took out Federal Student Loans, you can likely access your info at https://myfedloan.org/. If you took out private student loans, check with your lender for how to access your information. Tracking your loans will give you a gage on the status of each loan, the balance you owe, as well as interest rates for each loan. By understanding the status of your loans, you can make more informed decisions about how you want to prioritize repayment, what type of repayment plan you want to choose, or even whether you want to consolidate or refinance your student loans.   

Know When Your Payments Start

Immediately following graduation, you’ll likely have a grace period, or a period of time before your first payment is due. This can vary depending on the type of loan you have, and they can be different for each loan. Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal loans have a six-month grace period. Perkins loans have a nine-month grace period. There is no grace period for PLUS loans; however, if you are a graduate or professional student PLUS borrower, you do not have to make any payments while you are enrolled at least half time and (for Direct PLUS loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008) for an additional 6 months after you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment. Private student loans will have differing grace periods so contact your loan servicer for more details. Knowing when your loan will be due is imperative to starting off on the right foot when it comes to your student loans.  

Weigh Repayment Options

When you take out federal student loans and your grace period is complete, you will automatically enter the Standard Repayment Plan. This plan allows you to pay off your debt within 10 years, with the monthly payment remaining the same over the life of the loan. If standard repayment doesn’t work for your budget, you may want to consider some other options, or perhaps even refinance your student loans. The federal student loan program offers the following Income-Based Repayment plans: 
  • Graduated Repayment Plan – Gives you a smaller payment amount in the beginning and gradually increases the payment amount every two years.
  • Extended Repayment Plan – Allows you to pay the least possible amount per month for 10 to 25 years.
  • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan or REPAYE Plan – Bases the monthly payment on you (and spouse’s) adjusted gross income, family size, and state of residence.
  • Pay As You Earn or PAYE – Monthly payments are based on your adjusted gross income and family size. You must be experiencing a financial hardship to qualify. You must also be considered a “new borrower” as of 10/1/2007 or after, or be someone who received an eligible Direct Loan disbursement on 10/1/2011 or after.
  • Income-Based Repayment or IBR – Monthly payments based on your adjusted gross income and family size. Must be experiencing a financial hardship to qualify.
  • Income-Contingent Repayment or ICR – Based on your monthly adjusted gross income and family size. Typically chosen if an individual can’t qualify for the Pay As You Earn Plan or Income-Based Repayment.Any changes to your income or your spouse’s income will affect your student loan payment. For example, if your salary increases, your student loan payment will as well. If you are married, both your income and your partner’s income are combined. Two combined incomes will increase your total income, likely increasing your monthly payment. 
  Keep in mind that each repayment option will have positives, negatives, as well as eligibility requirements. Research each option before making a decision, and consider contacting your loan servicer if you have questions or need more information.   

Automate Your Payments (If you can)

Setting up automatic payments will make student loan repayment less of a hassle, will avoid late payments, and may even score you an interest rate reduction. Just be sure you have enough money in your account month-to-month to endure the payments without overdrawing.   

Make Extra Payments

When you make your monthly payment, it will first apply to any late fees you have, then it will apply to interest. After these items are covered, the remaining payment will go toward your principal loan balance (the amount you actually borrowed). By paying down the principal, you reduce the amount of interest that you pay over the life of the loan. Applying extra income by making larger payments or double payments will reduce the total amount you’ll end up paying.   

Reach Out for Help if Necessary

If you’re having trouble making your monthly payments, particularly on your federal student loans, contact your loan servicer. They will work with you to find a repayment plan you can manage or help determine your eligibility for deferment or forbearance. If you stop making payments without getting a deferment or forbearance, you risk your loan going into default, which can have serious consequences to your credit.   

Weigh Refinancing & Consolidation Options

If you have multiple student loans that are all accruing interest at different rates, you may want to consider student loan refinancing or consolidation to make repayment more manageable. The federal student loan program offers student loan consolidation, in which they combine your loans into one loan with a weighted average interest rate, rounded up to the nearest 1/8th percent. You can also consolidate your federal and/or private student loan with a private lender through the process of refinancing. Refinancing your student loans is much like consolidation, however it offers the opportunity to start new repayment terms and possibly lower your interest rate. Keep in mind that refinancing with a private lender may cause you to lose access to certain federal student loan repayment options that are listed above.   

Look Into Loan Forgiveness

If you work in a public service position or for a non-profit, you may want to consider the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program or another loan forgiveness program offered by the federal government. Other options exist for volunteers, military recruits, medical personnel, etc. Some state, school, and private programs also offer loan forgiveness. Check with your school or loan servicer to see if you may qualify for student loan forgiveness.  

Earn Your Tax Benefits

If you are paying your student loans, you may be able to deduct the interest you pay on your student loans when filing your taxes. Deductions reduce your tax liability, saving you money and serving as a nice tradeoff for having to pay interest on your student loans.    Repayment of student loans can be a long, difficult journey – but by taking advantage of your resources and staying determined to pay off your debt, it is manageable. If you need more information on paying back your student loans or the options that are available to you, contact your loan servicer.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
2019-12-03
LIBOR: What It Means for Student Loans

By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been featured in publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. She is focused on helping people pay down their debt and boost their income.

 

If you decide to refinance your student loans, you’re likely looking for the lowest interest rate possible. If you want to pay off your debt aggressively, you may get a lower rate by opting for a variable rate loan rather than a fixed-rate loan.

 

While a variable rate loan may be a smart choice, it’s important to understand how lenders determine your interest rate and what factors may influence it, such as the LIBOR rate.

 

Continue reading to learn more about the LIBOR rate and how it affects your student loan repayment.

 

What is LIBOR?

To understand LIBOR, you must first understand Eurodollars. Eurodollars are bank deposit liabilities — written as U.S. dollars — that don’t fall under U.S. banking regulations. Banks that offer Eurodollars are usually located outside of the United States, and play a big role in the financial industry.

 

The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is a money market interest rate that is considered to be the standard in the interbank Eurodollar market. It’s a market for banks and financial institutions, rather than individuals. The LIBOR rate is the rate at which international banks are willing to offer Eurodollar deposits to one another.

 

That all may sound very complex and confusing, and you may be wondering why it matters to you. But the LIBOR rate can affect you directly. Many adjustable-rate loans and lines of credit, such as mortgages, credit cards, and student loans, base their interest rates on the LIBOR rate

 

How LIBOR affects your variable rate loans

When you apply for a loan, you can often choose between a fixed-rate loan and a variable rate loan. A fixed-rate loan has the same interest rate for the length of your repayment. It never changes, no matter what the market does. By contrast, variable rate loans usually have lower rates than fixed-rate loans for the same term at first. However, they can fluctuate over time to coincide with market changes.

 

If you have variable rate student loans, changes to the LIBOR impact the interest rate you’ll pay on the loan throughout your repayment.

 

Private student loans, including refinancing loans, have interest rates that are tied to an index, such as LIBOR. But that’s not the rate you’ll pay. The lender also adds a margin that is based on your credit; the better your credit, the lower the margin.

 

Your annual percentage rate, or APR, is a way of measuring the full cost a lender charges you per year for funds, and is expressed as a percentage. Your APR can be determined by adding the LIBOR rate to the margin, and including the cost of other fees and charges (if any exist) averaged over the term of the loan. If the LIBOR rate increases, the interest rate on your student loan will increase as well.

 

LIBOR Rate + Margin = Your Interest Rate

There are different maturities for LIBOR, including overnight, one week, one month, two months, three months, six months, and twelve months. Some student loan companies, including ELFI, adjust their interest rates every quarter based on the three-month LIBOR rate, while others adjust rates monthly as their loans are tied to the one-month LIBOR.

 

The LIBOR rate can fluctuate a great deal. However, most private student loan companies have caps on the interest rate, meaning your interest rate will never exceed that amount, no matter how high the LIBOR rate becomes.

 

Current LIBOR rates

As of Friday, November 22, 2019 — the last available data — the LIBOR rate is 1.917%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 4.917% (1.917% + 3.00%=4.917%).

 

The current LIBOR rate is significantly lower than it was at the beginning of 2019. On January 2, 2019, the LIBOR rate was 2.79%.

 

LIBOR rate trends

The LIBOR rate rises and falls along with market changes. Over the past 10 years, the three-month LIBOR rate has generally increased.

 

On December 2, 2009, the LIBOR rate was just 0.255%. As of November 22, 2019, the rate was 1.917%. If you had a variable rate loan during that time, that change means your rate would have risen by 1.662%.

  [caption id="attachment_22536" align="alignnone" width="935"] The chart above displays fluctuations to the 3-month LIBOR based on the U.S. dollar from 2010-2019.[/caption]  

Future of LIBOR

LIBOR has been the gold standard that lenders have used for years to determine their rates. However, LIBOR is slowly being phased out and will be replaced with a new index.

 

LIBOR is based on transactions that aren’t as common as they used to be, so the index is considered to be less reliable than it once was. LIBOR is expected to be discontinued sometime after 2021.

 

How will that affect interest rates? The Federal Reserve has convened a committee to facilitate the transition and has recommended a new index to replace LIBOR. Lenders will likely replace LIBOR with the recommended index, or with the U.S. Prime Rate. Be sure to check your student loan documents (typically your Application & Credit Agreement) to better understand the terms of replacing the LIBOR index with a replacement index if you have a variable rate loan.

 

Managing your debt

If you’re planning on refinancing your student loans and are trying to decide between a fixed-rate loan and a variable rate loan, learning about the LIBOR rate can help you make an informed choice. If you want to see how much money you can save with refinancing and what interest rate you can qualify for, use ELFI’s Find My Rate tool to get a quote.*

 
 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. Variable rates may increase after closing.

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.