Our Simplest Guide To Student Loan Refinancing – Part IIOctober 9, 2018
Updated January 27, 2020
We covered some of the nuts and bolts of refinancing your student loans in Part I of this guide, but there’s still more to learn before you can confidently approach refinancing your loans. So strap yourself in for Part II of Education Loan Finance’s Simplest Guide to Student Loan Refinancing!
Refinancing Different Types of Student Loans
How and why you refinance your student loans depends heavily on whether you have federal student loans, private student loans, or both. Here’s why:
When considering refinancing private loans, it usually comes down to the math of how much you’ll save. Because there are so many private servicer options, you can take time to compare the customer service, terms, and interest rates. Since you’re refinancing a private loan, you probably aren’t losing any benefits moving from one servicer to another. Make sure you understand how much you’re saving because that will be a major factor in choosing the company, along with their service.
Some people believe that federal loans can’t be refinanced, but they totally can. They’re actually the most common loans to refinance because so many people can get better rates now than they did with the federal loans initially.
You can easily find private companies that will refinance your federal loans. The reason why people don’t choose to refinance their federal loans is because you can lose benefits that are only available on federal loans if you refinance them. Federal loans might have more payment options or qualify for programs like loan forgiveness where private loans won’t have those same benefits. But if you’re not counting on loan forgiveness and you are set with private payment options, refinancing your federal loans might be a great financial choice for you.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to refinance all loans of either type. You might have one or two private federal loans that are a higher rate and you want to refinance those, but you keep others as-is because the rates and servicers still fit your needs. How you do it is up to you.
You can also refinance other kinds of student loans like PLUS loans. PLUS loans can be refinanced by the parent who holds them or can be transferred to the student/child from whom the money was borrowed. If the child recipient of these loans has a good credit score and good credit history along with sufficient income and an appropriate debt-income ratio, this might be a good solution. Just keep in mind that these new payments have to fit into the budget and you want to make sure you’re ready.
If you’re not going to save money (either monthly or by reducing the length of time you’re paying back your loans) then it usually doesn’t make sense to refinance. That’s why most people look first to interest rates to understand whether they should refinance or not. If you qualify for significantly lower interest rates than what you currently pay, then take a look at how much you’ll save and see if it makes sense to move forward. Online student loan refinance calculators can give you an idea of what difference those small percentages can make depending on how much time you have left to pay your loan.
Another factor for student loan refinancing can be the terms of your loans or the amount of time that you’ll continue to pay these loans before they are paid off. For example, say you have ten years left to pay off your student loans, but you can refinance. When you refinance, you make the same payment amount but finish payments in seven years instead of ten—heck yes! That’s three fewer years that you’ll be making that payment. On the other hand, maybe you want longer terms to pay off your loan so that you can get a lower monthly payment. Some people refinance into the same length of time for their loan but take the savings from refinancing and use that to save for something else. This is why it might make sense to refinance even if your payment isn’t going down.
You might find that more than one loan servicer can give you a good drop in interest rates or better loan terms—so how, then, do you decide between them? There are lots of things that matter to you that may not be apparent at first. How you pay, like whether you can pay online or make automatic payments, can be a big one. Customer service is crucial when you are dealing with something that can be difficult to navigate on your own or as a first-timer, too. Plus, not all servicers are equally reputable. Check out information about companies you’re considering and make sure you’re not signing up for a shady new student loan.
When is it time to refinance your student loans?
Understanding when is the right time to refinance is a whole other can of worms. There are several markers or goals you might want to reach before looking into refinancing. Check out our article on signs that it’s time to refinance.
It’s a personal decision to decide if now is the time to refinance. The best thing you can do is to understand your current situation and equip yourself with information on refinancing and personal finance. Look for help connecting your specific situation to good advice. Consult trusted sources and look at the big picture. How would refinancing help you hit your goals? Are you doing something right now that would make refinancing tough and maybe it could wait a month or two, or does it make sense to get started today?
You can always reach out to us and speak to an expert at ELFI. We help people with their unique refinancing situations every day. You’ll get connected with someone who can help you through the entire process so that you never get left in the dark. What could be simpler than calling your own personal advisor today?*
*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.
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