After the excitement of graduation wears off, reality comes in the form of student loan payments. You might be surprised to find that your loan balance has grown. You likely owe far more than you borrowed thanks to interest.
Getting a lower student loan interest rate is key to paying off your debt ahead of schedule and saving money. Here’s how you can qualify for a better rate.
4 ways to get a lower student loan interest rate
Although student loans are cheaper than some other forms of debt, such as credit cards, they can still have high interest rates. If you have a private student loan, you could pay as much as 12.19%. Even if you have federal loans, which tend to be cheaper than private ones, rates can be as high as 7.60%, depending on your loan type.
Those high rates can dramatically impact your loan balance. Unless you have federal Direct Subsidized Loans, your loans will accrue interest while you’re in school. Once you graduate, if you don’t make large enough payments to cover both interest fees and some of the principal, your loan balance can balloon out of control.
You don’t have to settle for high rates. Whether you have federal or private student loans, here are four ways you can reduce your interest rate.
1. Refinance your student loans
One of the most effective ways to get a lower interest rate and save money is to refinance your student loans. With refinancing, you work with a lender to take out a new loan for the amount of some or all of your current student loans.
The new loan will have completely different terms than the old one, including a new interest rate, repayment period, and monthly payment. Depending on your credit, you could qualify for a better rate, helping you save thousands.
But it’s important to know that refinancing your loans does have some drawbacks, particularly if you have federal loans. By refinancing, you’ll lose out on benefits such as access to income-driven repayment plans. If your goal is to save money and pay off your debt quickly, refinancing can be a smart option.
If you decide that it’s right for you, make sure you get multiple offers from student loan refinancing companies to compare interest rates.
2. Sign up for automatic payments
Enrolling in automatic payments has two main benefits: you minimize the risk of forgetting to make a payment, and you could get a modest rate reduction. Some lenders, such as Citizens Bank and College Ave, offer rate reductions — typically a quarter of a percentage point — when you sign up.
That might not sound like a significant decrease, but even small interest rate adjustments can yield big rewards.
For example, if you had $39,400 in student loans — the national average for graduates in 2017 — and a 7.00% interest rate, you’d repay $15,496 in interest charges over your 10-year repayment period.
But if you signed up for autopay, you could get a rate reduction of 0.25 percentage points. If you had the same loan balance and repayment period, you’d repay $14,889 in interest. That small rate reduction would help you save more than $600.
3. Make on-time payments
If you make all your payments on time every single month, some lenders will reward you with a 0.25% rate reduction. After a couple of years of on-time payments, the lender could adjust your interest rate.
When paired with an automatic payment discount, you could get 0.50% off your interest rate, helping you save hundreds or even thousands over the course of your repayment period. Plus, signing up for automatic payments ensures you make all your payments on time.
4. Qualify for a loyalty discount
If your student loan lender is also your banker, you could qualify for a loyalty discount.
For example, if you take out a loan with Wells Fargo and already have a checking account with them, you could get a rate reduction as high as 0.50%. Some lenders will even allow you to pair that discount with other reductions, such as the automatic payment deduction, helping you save even more money.
Not all lenders offer a loyalty discount, but it’s worth contacting your loan servicer and asking if it does. The savings can be large.
Pay off your debt
Interest rates play a huge role in your student loan repayment. If you have a high rate, you could pay far more than you borrowed. Using these strategies can help you snag a lower student loan interest rate.
Interested in refinancing your student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Rates (APR)||Eligible Degrees||More Info|
|2.57% - 6.32%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.80% - 7.02%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.51% - 7.80%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Sofi|
|2.76% - 8.54%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.57% - 6.65%||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Commonbond|
|2.75% - 8.69%1||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|