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2021 NerdWallet Best-of Awards Winner for Best Student Loan Refinancing Overall


Spouse Student Loan Consolidation for Married Individuals With Debt

Kat Tretina
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Despite a changing workforce, it’s still common for one person in a marriage not to work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only one person was employed in nearly 27% of married couples. And that’s where a spouse student loan consolidation could provide serious support for managing student loans – because no income doesn’t mean the non-working spouse doesn’t have student loan debt.

With more people going to college than ever before, more people are borrowing money to pay for school. In fact, the Pew Research Center reported that 15% of all adults have outstanding student loan debt.

If you don’t have verifiable income of your own, what can you do to manage your education debt? You may be wondering: Can you consolidate your spouse’s student loans with yours?

One option is a spouse student loan consolidation loan, which can help you refinance your loans together and take advantage of your total household income. Here’s how it works.

What is spouse student loan refinancing?

Many married couples who both have student loan debt would like a solution to the question: Can you consolidate student loans with your spouse?

The answer is yes, thanks to a spouse student loan debt consolidation from PenFed Credit Union. With spouse student loan refinancing, a unique program offered by PenFed, the lender looks at your combined income and debt — rather than just your income alone — to determine whether or not to approve you for a loan.

For partners who don’t work outside the home, such as stay-at-home parents, that can be a huge benefit — and increase your chances of qualifying for a loan.

The lender will also look at whoever has the highest credit score. So applying for a spouse student loan refinancing loan can even help you secure a much lower interest rate, if one person in the marriage has a significantly better credit score.

After you refinance your debt, the loan will show up on both of your credit reports, and you’ll share responsibility for repaying the loan.

How does this differ from a traditional student loan refinance? With a regular consolidation loan, your spouse can act as a co-signer on the loan. However, many lenders still have minimum income and credit score requirements for the primary borrower, and they don’t combine your information together.

So can spouses consolidate student loans together? It’s possible trough PenFed Credit Union and there are many benefits to doing so.

Benefits of consolidating student loans with your spouse

While there are some drawbacks to spousal student loan refinancing, consolidating your loans together with your spouse’s debt has three major benefits:

1. You’ll increase your chances of qualifying for a refinance loan

If you don’t have a job outside of the home, it can be challenging to find a lender willing to approve you for a loan. Even if your spouse acts as a co-signer, many lenders won’t work with you.

But with spouse student loan refinancing, PenFed looks at your combined household income and whoever has the highest credit score. With more income and better credit, you’re more likely to get approved for a loan.

2. You can simplify your student loan payments

To pay for college, you and your spouse likely had to take out multiple student loans. You may have a mix of both federal and private student loans, which means you have multiple loan servicers, minimum payments, and due dates to remember.

Having so many different loans to keep track of can be difficult to remember, and it can make it easy to forget payments and fall behind.

When you refinance your loans together, your loans are consolidated. You’ll have one loan to manage, with a single loan servicer and one simple monthly payment.

Your debt is ultimately much easier to manage, and you’re less likely to forget your payment due dates.

3. You’ll save money over the length of your repayment

Married couples may often question: Can spouses consolidate student loans together to save money?

Because lenders look at your household income, credit score, and what kind of degrees you and your spouse have, you could qualify for a lower interest rate than you’d get if you applied on your own.

If you qualify for a lower rate, more of your monthly payment will go toward the principal rather than interest after you refinance. Over time, refinancing your loans together can allow you to save a significant amount of money.

For example, let’s say you had $30,000 in student loans at 6% interest and a 10-year repayment term. Your spouse had $20,000 in student loans at 7% interest with a 10-year repayment term.

If you didn’t refinance your debt, and instead made the minimum payments on both loans for the entire repayment terms, you’d repay a total of $67,824 over 10 years. Interest charges would cost you over $17,800.

But if you applied for a spouse student loan refinancing loan and qualified for a loan with a 5% interest rate and a 10-year repayment term, you’d repay just $63,640 over the length of your loan.

Consolidating your loans together would help you save $4,184.

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Other factors to consider when you combine student loans with a spouse

Student loan consolidation for married couples can make a lot of sense — but there are other important aspects of combining finances to think about.

Outside of the benefits of getting a lower rate and customizing your repayment term, it’s essential to weigh the negatives of consolidating your debt with the positives.

Entangling — and disentangling — your debt with your spouse’s can be complicated and lead to complex decisions. When thinking about, “can you consolidate student loans with a spouse?”, here are some common drawbacks of married student loan consolidation.

Refinancing spouse student loans means giving up federal loan benefits

If you or your spouse have federal student loans from the U.S. Department of Education, you’ll lose all federal benefits after consolidating your loans together through refinancing.

That’s because a spouse student loan debt consolidation is a refinancing loan from a private lender — and this type of loan is only available through PenFed Credit Union.

As a private lender, PenFed doesn’t offer the same features as the government. By refinancing your federal loans through a private lender, you’re essentially converting them into a single new private loan.

Some of the key federal benefits that aren’t offered with private loans include:

  • Access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
  • The ability to enter an income-driven repayment plan such as income-based repayment, income-contingent repayment, Pay As You Earn, and Revised Pay As You Earn.
  • Access to generous forbearance and deferment programs.

If taking advantage of one or more of these federal benefits is important to your financial well-being, applying for a student loan consolidation for spouses may not be in your best interest.

For example, if you work for an eligible employer under PSLF — like a federal, state, local, or tribal government agency or a not-for-profit organization — you’d have all your student debt forgiven after 10 years of qualifying payments.

If you’re in that situation, it’s likely more beneficial for you in the long run to remain in that program than to consolidate your federal debt with a private lender.

There’s the possibility you end up separating

Although you and your spouse may be happily married, there is a chance you could separate at some point in the future. It’s not a reality many couples want to think about, but sadly, divorces are quite common.

If you and your spouse do decide to split after getting a spouse student loan consolidation, it can be difficult to handle as you’ll both be equally liable to pay the remaining debt. Figuring out a plan forward that works for both parties could become stressful and complex, so it’s important to at least consider the possibility of a divorce and how it could impact your combined finances.

Be prepared to take on the debt alone

Another potential situation that many couples don’t want to entertain in their plans is the possibility of a spouse passing away.

But even though it’s extremely sad to think about, it’s important to understand the financial impact of losing your loved one. After getting a student loan consolidation for spouses, you’ll both be equally responsible for the combined balance of the debt. If your partner passes away, you may become entirely responsible for the whole amount due.

That’s the case even if your partner was the one who had the majority of student loan debt.

However, if your student loans remain separate and your spouse passes away, many lenders (such as the U.S. Department of Education) are likely to discharge their remaining debt completely — removing that additional burden from your shoulders.

Who is eligible for a spouse student loan consolidation?

There is only one lender that offers spouse student loan consolidation loans: PenFed Credit Union.

To combine student loans with a spouse, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Credit score: You both need to have a minimum credit score of 670, and at least one of you needs to have a credit score of 700 or higher. If the loan amount requested is $150,000 or more, you or your spouse will need a credit score of 725 or higher.
  • Degree type: If you both have the same degree type, it doesn’t matter who is the main applicant. But if one of you has an advanced degree, such as a master’s or doctoral degree, that person should be the main applicant to increase your chances of qualifying for a lower interest rate. Only one person needs to have achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher to refinance; there are no degree requirements for the other partner.
  • Loans: The minimum amount you can refinance is $7,500; the maximum is $300,000.

While combining your education debt together with your spouse’s can be a good idea for some, it’s not for everyone.

Whether you decide to move forward with your loan application or refinance your loans on your own, it’s a good idea to shop around with different lenders. You can use Purefy’s Compare Rates tool to get quotes from multiple, including PenFed Credit Union.

How do you consolidate student loans with a spouse?

Here’s a brief recap on how to consolidate student loans with your spouse.

A spouse student loan debt consolidation is a refinance loan that combines both your and your spouse’s student debt together under one single private loan. And this type of loan is currently only available through PenFed Credit Union.

By pursuing a spouse student loan consolidation from PenFed, you can take advantage of your household income and the higher credit score between you and your partner. With your combined income and better credit score under consideration, you’re more likely to qualify for a refinance — and be offered the lowest possible interest rates.

If you or your spouse happens to have much higher income or better credit, PenFed’s spouse student loan consolidation may be your best option to save the most money on your student loan debt.

Although this type of loan can often be the right solution for many married couples, you and your partner also have the option to pursue a cosigned spouse student loan. If you have a strong credit history, cosigning your spouse’s student loan refinance will still give your loved one a better chance at being approved for a consolidation and lower rates.

However, a cosigned refinance won’t use your household income or only the higher credit score — the primary borrower’s income and credit will still be taken into account. Adding a creditworthy cosigner to the loan simply makes it less risky for the lender — and therefor more likely to be approved — since the cosigner will be responsible for making payments if the primary borrower is unable.

In comparison to PenFed’s exclusive spouse student loan consolidation, a cosigned student loan refinance is an option offered by nearly every private lender. So you may be able to shop around a wider variety of student loan refinance companies — each offering different terms and unique features — to find the right fit for your specific needs.

If a spouse student loan debt consolidation sounds like the right move for your family — or you’re in between applying for PenFed’s spouse loan or a traditional cosigned refinance — the best first step is to compare your rates and options.

Use Purefy’s Compare Rates tool to quickly and easily see all your available student loan refinance offers from a number of reputable, top notch lenders.

After seeing your rates and terms from a variety of companies — including PenFed — you can make an informed decision between a spouse student loan consolidation or cosigned student loan refinance.

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