As a parent, it's natural to want to help your child succeed, and for many parents, that includes taking out student loans to help cover the cost of their child's college education. Unfortunately, Parent PLUS Loans and private student loans for parents can threaten your financial security, including your ability to retire on time and comfortably. While there are many ways to lower student loan payments and save on interest, refinancing your Parent PLUS Loans can be the best way to maximize your savings. Here's how much you could potentially save, how to refinance Parent PLUS Loans and whether refinancing is right for you. How to get a lower rate with Parent PLUS Loan refinancing There are a few different ways you can score a lower interest rate on your Parent PLUS Loans through refinancing. Market interest rates have declined For starters, you could potentially get a lower rate if market interest rates have decreased since you first took out your student loans. Student loan refinance interest rates have hit record lows in 2021, and they've stayed there, giving college graduates and parents alike the opportunity to save by refinancing their federal and private student loans. In August 2021, the average fixed interest rate on student loan refinancing is about 3.5%, half of the average interest rate on Parent PLUS Loans over the four academic years leading up to the coronavirus pandemic. Even if your credit score and income haven't increased since you first took out the loans, you could still qualify for a lower rate than what you're paying now. Your credit score and financial situation have improved If your credit score has increased or you've started earning more income, those positive improvements could help you score a lower interest rate. You could potentially even get a lower rate than the average, saving you even more money. On average, the credit score and annual salary for people who refinance their student loans are 774 and $98,156, respectively, according to Purefy data. That's not to say that you need to be at those levels to save money. But the higher your score and income, the better your chances of getting favorable terms. You can calculate refinance savings through our online calculator. Get a cosigner If your credit and income haven't improved since you first took out your Parent PLUS Loans, you could potentially achieve your goal of saving money by getting a creditworthy cosigner to apply with you for the refinance. The lender will consider both your and the cosigner's creditworthiness and make a decision based on information from both applicants. Just keep in mind that if you have a cosigner on your new loan, the debt will also appear on their credit reports, and if you miss a payment, it could damage their credit rating along with yours. How a lower Parent PLUS Loan rate saves you money Simply put, a lower interest rate can save you money because the lender is charging a lower cost of borrowing. Student loan interest typically accrues daily, and when you make your monthly payment, all the interest that has accrued since the last payment is deducted from your payment. The remainder goes toward paying down the principal balance of the debt. So when you obtain a lower interest rate through refinancing, the interest on your loan will accrue at a slower rate, providing savings every single month. It also results in a lower monthly payment because you're paying less interest. So if you're hoping to figure out how to lower student loan payments and interest, refinancing can help you do both. Parent PLUS Loan refinance eligibility for the lowest rates Some student loan refinance companies share the minimum requirements to get approved for a refinance loan. Depending on the company, you can generally expect a minimum credit score in the mid-600s and a minimum annual salary of $24,000. But in order to get the best rates available, your credit score and income will likely need to be significantly higher. As previously mentioned, the average person who refinances their student loans has a credit score of 774 and an annual income of $98,156. Again, those aren't necessarily thresholds you need to meet to qualify for a lower interest rate than what you have right now. But for some, refinancing may not be worth it unless you can maximize your savings. The good news is that many student loan refinance lenders allow you to view rate offers upfront through prequalification. That way, you don't have to submit a full application and undergo a hard credit check to get an idea of what your interest rate might be with different lenders. The process also makes it easier to shop around before you submit an application. How refinancing helps parents with high student loan rates Parent PLUS Loans can be a good way to help your child avoid student loan debt. But of all the federal student loan options that are available, Parent PLUS Loans are the most expensive, both in terms of the upfront loan fee and the ongoing interest rate. This means that refinancing could offer more potential savings to parents than to college graduates who were able to take advantage of lower interest rates and loan fees. In addition to a lower rate, refinancing can also give parents the chance to gain more control over their student loan repayment plan. Student loan refinance companies offer terms ranging from five to 20 years. So if you want to pay down your student loans early, you could opt for a shorter repayment period. That strategy would increase your monthly payment, but it would also help you save even more on interest. On the flip side, you could extend your repayment term and drive down your monthly payment even more. In some cases, you may even be able to get a lower interest rate than what you have now and also a longer repayment period. Just keep in mind that you may end up paying more interest over the life of the loan. But you'll want to calculate refinancing savings before you commit to see the actual numbers. How to determine your total savings on Parent PLUS Loans If you're wondering how to calculate refinance savings, the best way to do it is with an online refinance calculator. You'll start by providing your current loan information, and since it's likely that you took out multiple loans to help your child pay for school, the best calculators allow you to add more than one loan. You'll share the current balance, interest rate and monthly payment. Next, you'll enter the new loan information, including the interest rate and repayment period. To get the potential interest rate, use a rate comparison tool like the one offered by Purefy to get prequalified with multiple lenders at once. You'll receive rate offers based on your credit profile, and while they aren't final — you'll need to submit an official application to get that — they can give you a good idea of what you qualify for. With that information, you can enter the details of your potential new loan and calculate how applying for it could save you over the life of your new loan, as well as on a monthly basis. Examples of how much money a lower rate can save you According to federal data, the average Parent PLUS Loan debt is $28,778. Over the four academic years before the coronavirus pandemic, interest rates on Parent PLUS Loans averaged 7%. That gives you a monthly payment of about $334. Depending on where you look, fixed interest rates on a refinance loan can go as low as 2.5% or even lower. Here's how much you can save based on the average balance and different rate options on a 10-year repayment plan: Interest Rate New Monthly Payment Interest Savings 2.5% $271 $7,927 3.5% 284 $6,364 4.5% $297 $4,758 5.5% $311 $3,107 6.5% $325 $1,413 Of course, you'll need to run the numbers for yourself based on your situation to get an accurate idea of how much you can save. Depending on the situation, you could save even more than the average. Go through the steps provided above for how to calculate refinance savings to get an idea of how much you can benefit from refinancing your Parent PLUS Loans. Should I refinance Parent PLUS Loans even if I only save 1%? Even if you only manage to lower your student loan interest rate by 1%, it can still make sense to refinance your loans. Using the same scenario as above, if you were to lower your interest rate from 7% to 6%, your monthly payment would drop by $16 to $318, and you'd save $2,265 in interest over the life of your 10-year repayment plan. For many people, a $16 decrease in their monthly payment may not seem worth it. And while the total interest savings is in the thousands of dollars, it breaks down to about $226 in savings annually. But if you don't have any other legitimate reasons to avoid refinancing your Parent PLUS Loans, even this situation means you're putting less money in your lender's pockets and keeping it for yourself. Make sure you carefully consider your situation, including the benefits and drawbacks you'd experience if you were to refinance your student loans before you make a final decision. How to lower your student loan payment and interest rate in other ways While refinancing can make a huge difference in your student loan repayment plan, it's not the only way you can reduce your interest rate — and, therefore, your monthly payment: Set up automatic payments: Many lenders offer an interest rate discount of 0.25% or 0.50% if you set up automatic payments on your student loan account. This is because you're far more likely to keep up with your monthly payments if you don't have to remember to pay them manually every month. Student loan defaults and collection efforts can be costly for lenders, so offering an autopay discount is worth it for them, too.Refinance with your bank: Some banks offer loyalty discounts to customers who refinance their student loans with them. Citizens Bank is one example, offering a 0.25% discount to borrowers if they or their cosigner has an eligible deposit account with the bank.Pay on time: In rare instances, a lender may offer you a lower interest rate if you make your monthly payments on time for a predetermined period of time.Negotiate with your lender: If you have private student loans, you may be able to negotiate a lower interest rate with your lender, especially if you can find better rates elsewhere or if you're behind on payments and need a modified payment plan. That said, there's no guarantee that this option will work, and it doesn't apply to federal loans like Parent PLUS Loans. It's also important to keep in mind that while federal loan consolidation may sound like refinancing, it's not, and it actually increases your interest rate. When you consolidate Parent PLUS Loans, which may be necessary to get on an income-driven repayment plan or apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), the new interest rate will be rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of a percent. So if you consolidate loans with a weighted-average interest rate of 6.89%, your rate would be rounded up to 7%, ultimately costing you more money. How to refinance Parent PLUS Loans If you're looking for a step-by-step process for how to refinance Parent PLUS Loans or how to pay off Parent PLUS Loans, here's what you need to know. 1. Think about your goals Start by thinking about why you want to refinance your Parent PLUS Loans. For example, do you want a lower interest rate, or are you hoping to shorten or extend your repayment term? Think about your reasons for refinancing so that once you've completed the process, you know the next steps. 2. Consider the potential drawbacks Parent PLUS Loans offer access to certain benefits that you'll lose if you refinance them with a private lender. For starters, if you consolidate your loans, you're eligible for the Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan. With this plan, your monthly payment may be reduced to the lesser of 20% of your discretionary income or what you'd pay on a fixed 12-year repayment plan, adjusted according to your income. The plan also extends your term to 25 years, and if you have a balance at the end of the term, it'll be forgiven. In other words, if you're struggling financially, the ICR plan can help you avoid defaulting on your debt. You'll also be eligible for the PSLF program, which is available to college graduates and parents who work for a government agency or eligible not-for-profit organization, make 120 qualifying monthly payments and meet other requirements. Finally, federal forbearance and deferment options are generally more generous than what most private lenders offer. Of course, if you don't qualify for loan forgiveness and you don't anticipate needing the ICR plan, deferment or forbearance, you don't have to worry about these drawbacks. But it's still a good idea to consider these features for your situation and how it might impact you to lose them. 3. Shop around and compare refinance rates One of the most important steps for how to lower student loan payments and interest rates is to shop around and compare loan offers from multiple lenders. Each lender has its own criteria for determining creditworthiness, as well as its own set of interest rates. As a result, you may be able to get a lower interest rate from one lender even if the information you input with each company is the same. Getting prequalified with multiple lenders individually can be time-consuming, though. Save some time by using the Purefy Compare Rates tool. This platform allows you to get prequalified with several lenders at once, making it easier and more convenient to compare rate offers side by side. You can also compare other features, such as the repayment terms, fees, customer satisfaction, cosigner release options, discounts and more. The important thing is that you don't go with the first offer simply because it's better than what you have now. Take your time to shop around so you can get the best deal possible. 4. Apply with your lender of choice Once you've picked the lender with the best offer, click through to submit an official application directly through the lender's website. You'll need to provide information about yourself and your loans. You may also be required to provide some documentation, such as a government-issued photo ID and proof of income and employment. As soon as the lender has approved your application, you'll be able to view the final offer. At that point, you can decide to proceed with the loan or reject it. If you accept the loan terms, the lender will pay off your existing loans directly, and you'll start making payments on the new loan account. If you don't accept the loan terms because they changed dramatically, you can always return to the third step and pick another lender to apply with. And if you end up applying with multiple student loan providers, doing so within a short period of time — typically 14 days — won't necessarily damage your credit score because FICO usually combines rate-shopping inquiries into one for the purposes of calculating your score. Is Parent PLUS Loan refinancing a good way for me to save on interest? Refinancing your Parent PLUS Loans can be an excellent way to save money and to gain more control and flexibility over your student loan repayment plan. Before you make the decision to refinance your student loans, take the time to consider your reasons for refinancing. Also, think about what benefits you get from having federal student loans and whether you might want to take advantage of them now or in the future. If you've considered both the benefits and the drawbacks of refinancing and still want to proceed, take your time to shop around and compare loan options from multiple lenders before you settle on one. This part of the process is crucial because if you don't do your due diligence, you could end up leaving money on the table by missing out on a better offer. As you compare offers, make sure you use a Parent PLUS Loan refinance calculator to run the numbers and determine how much you could potentially save if you were to proceed. Finally, as you go through the refinancing process, also think about whether you want to change your repayment plan to better fit your needs and goals. If you can afford a higher monthly payment and simply want to get rid of your debt as quickly as possible, going with a shorter repayment term can help you achieve that goal. On the other hand, if you want to lower your monthly payment to work better with your budget or to lower your debt-to-income ratio, you may be able to extend your repayment plan to up to 20 years. The bottom line Refinancing Parent PLUS Loans could potentially save you thousands of dollars in interest, and in some cases, it can also help you pay off your debt faster. Before you start the process, though, do your research to determine if refinancing is right for you. Also, make sure you shop around and use online calculators to get an idea of what you might qualify for and how much it can save you in the long run. Parent PLUS Loan holders have a better chance of getting a lower interest rate through refinancing than most because their loans have higher interest rates, to begin with. But in the event that you can't get approved for a lower interest rate on your own, consider asking someone with a solid credit history and annual salary to apply with you as a cosigner.