Refinancing student loans isn’t for everyone.
But for those who qualify, there’s no catch.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t things you should consider before applying — and knowing when it’s smart to refinance student loans is an essential step in the process.
If you’ve been wondering if you should refinance student loans, here’s what you need to know before you decide.
The benefits of student loan refinancing
For those who qualify for student loan refinancing, there’s a lot to like.
The primary benefit is that you may be able to qualify for a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying, potentially saving you thousands of dollars as you pay off your debt.
For example, let’s say you have $30,000 in student loan debt on a 10-year repayment plan, with a weighted-average interest rate of 6.5%.
If you managed to refinance your loans at a 4.5% interest rate with the same repayment term, you’d save $3,567 over 10 years.
It’d also reduce your monthly payment by $30, which isn’t a lot, but it’s still cash you’re keeping in your pocket every month for the next decade.
Other benefits of student loan refinancing include:
- Flexibility: If you want to repay your student loans faster or lengthen your repayment term to further reduce your monthly payments, you can do both with a private refinance lender. With the U.S. Department of Education, the standard 10-year repayment plan is the shortest option available.
- One lender: With federal loans, you may have multiple loan servicers to deal with. That not only means multiple monthly payments but also having to deal with different companies when you have questions. When you refinance your loans, you’ll end up with just one monthly payment and one lender — not to mention it’s one you can choose.
Student loan refinancing is best suited for borrowers who qualify and don’t need the benefits that come with federal loans — which we’ll cover in a minute.
What to keep in mind with student loan refinancing
As previously mentioned, student loan refinancing isn’t for everyone. One of the drawbacks is that lenders typically have high eligibility standards.
This means that you’ll likely need a high credit score, a low debt-to-income ratio and a steady income. For many recent graduates, meeting these requirements can be challenging.
If you don’t meet the required standards, you may be able to still get approved with a creditworthy cosigner. But finding someone to agree isn’t always easy because the loans will also show up on their credit report, and they’re equally responsible for paying back the debt if you can’t make your payments.
Some private lenders do offer cosigner release programs. These programs can allow you to remove a cosigner from your loans after you make a certain number of payments and meet the lender’s credit criteria.
When to refinance student loans and when not to
Student loan refinancing can be the right or wrong choice, depending on your situation. The most important thing to consider is whether you need access to the benefits that come with federal student loans.
That includes access to:
- Student loan forgiveness programs: This includes the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF), Teacher Forgiveness Program and more. They can provide forgiveness for your remaining balance once you meet certain requirements.
- Income-driven repayment plans: The four plans reduce your monthly payment to between 10% and 20% of your discretionary income and can come in handy if you’re struggling to get by financially.
- Generous deferment and forbearance programs: If you return to school or experience financial hardship, the Department of Education typically provides better deferment and forbearance options than private lenders.
Keep in mind that if you’re refinancing private student loans, you don’t need to worry about any of these things. Depending on your situation and financial goals, here’s when to refinance student loans and when to think twice.
When to refinance
- You meet the eligibility requirements: Student loan refinance lenders typically let you get preapproved with just a soft credit check to determine your eligibility and rate offers. If you can qualify for student loan refinancing on your own or with a cosigner, it might be a good option.
- You can score a lower interest rate: The primary benefit of student loan refinancing is saving money. If you can get a lower rate than what you’re currently paying on your loans, you’ll not only reduce your monthly payment but also save money on interest over the life of your loans.
- You want more control: Refinancing student loans allows you to choose your lender, and also provides you flexible repayment options. Depending on your budget and how quickly you want to pay down your debt, you’ll have a lot of options.
When to think twice
- You qualify for a loan forgiveness program: If you qualify for PSLF or another loan forgiveness program, the benefit of sticking with it is likely far greater than the interest savings you could get with student loan refinancing.
- Your income situation is iffy: If you don’t have a lot of job security or you’re a small business owner with fluctuating income, it may be better to keep your federal loans, so you can get on an income-driven repayment plan or apply for deferment or forbearance if you need it.
- You don’t qualify: If you can’t get a lower interest rate than what you currently have or you don’t qualify for student loan refinancing at all — and you don’t have a cosigner who can help — you should wait until your credit and financial situation has improved before you apply.
The bottom line
For those who qualify, refinancing your student loans can be very rewarding. And while there’s no hidden catch that you have to watch out for, it’s important to consider both the pros and cons of the process — and that goes for any financial decision.
If you’re thinking about refinancing, use Purefy’s Compare Rates tool to shop around and compare terms from multiple lenders in one place. This preapproval process won’t affect your credit and can save you time as you do your due diligence to determine if refinancing is right for you and which lender to choose.