Best Student Loan Refinance
Student loan debt is a common problem among graduates. According to the NCES, 13% of students in the repayment phase of their loans defaulted in 2013. Finding the best student loan consolidation provider means taking many factors into consideration.
However, the end goal is the same: getting the needed extra funding without being financially burdened for years to come. After looking at many of the top providers, I found that the following are the best student loan consolidation options.
Finding the Best Student Loan Consolidation: What to Consider
Best Student Loan Consolidation
Refinancing student loans with the right company is important. Student loan consolidators each come with their own programs and benefits. As a result, you shouldn't accept the first loan you qualify for. Choosing the right lender depends on a few factors. After doing my research, I found a few important things you should consider:
Reasons to Start Searching for the Best Student Loan Provider
The cost of tuition and other college-related expenses often cause students to have to take out several student loans. This is made even more expensive if a student decides to go to law, medical or any other graduate school.
At the end of your educational career, you may be left paying off multiple loans and the monthly payments may be quite high. Finding the best student loan refinance options is often a good way to deal with debt. Below we list a selection of companies with the best student loan consolidation rates.
Many graduates who have a lot of payments to deal with each month choose to consolidate their loans into one simple monthly payment. This makes it easier to organize your finances and it means that you will be able to pay interest on one loan instead of many. You can also extend the length of the loan, giving you more time to repay it. This means your monthly payments will be lowered and more manageable.
...13% of students in the repayment phase of their loans defaulted in 2013.
On the other hand, it may take longer to pay back your debt which will mean more interest paid over time. However, if you are struggling to make monthly payments or if missed deadlines are causing you to have to pay fees, then seeking a reputable student loan consolidation company may be a good option.
Best Way to Pay off Student Loans of Different Types
Can you Refinance Federal Student Loan from a Federal Source?
Do you have private or federal loans? Federal loans may allow you to qualify for a federal consolidation program. These are excellent options to cut down on your monthly payments by giving you longer to repay the loan. You may also have the option to choose from a variety of repayment plans that you wouldn't have before consolidation.
A direct federal loan also gives you the option to switch to a fixed interest rate instead of a variable rate, allowing you to plan your repayment more accurately. Federal student loan consolidation lenders loans limit fees, simplify payments and lower monthly payments. It may also lengthen the term or your loan, causing you to pay more in overall interest.
Private Student Loan Consolidation
Private loans can be consolidated through a number of private lenders with the same goal as a federal loan: to simplify and lower payments each month. It is difficult to consolidate federal and private loans together and doing so may cause you to miss out on benefits from federal lenders like limited fees.
How to Refinance Student Loans
Finding the best way to consolidate student loans can be a tricky process. You need to collect a lot of information, decide which loans you want to combine and determine the best time to consolidate. However, your first question should be whether or not you should consolidate. After you decide to move forward, you can begin to find answers to those other questions.
When is the Best Time to Consolidate?
When you are trying to choose the best time to consolidate, the first thing you should know is that consolidation lenders will probably not help you before you graduate. Consolidation for both federal and private loans is for graduates almost exclusively. Plus, before graduation you may have to take out new loans to complete your degree. Since you can typically only consolidate student loans one time, you should wait until you are finished taking out loans before you consolidate.
However, if you drop out or decide not to complete schooling you can consolidate as well. As soon as you drop out, you can begin the consolidation process but it will be more difficult to find a good loan with reasonable rates.
You will most likely have a grace period after graduation when you do not have to make payments and you may not accrue interest. Some suggest consolidating during this time because lenders will give you better rates. Make sure you are prepared to begin making payments, though. As soon as you consolidate, the grace period is over.
Before You Apply
There are several things you need to do before you apply and in many ways preparation is the most important step:
- Look at all of your loans and how much you owe. Decide which loans you want to consolidate. Remember, rates are largely determined by the average of the rates you are consolidating. If you just combine loans with large interest rates with smaller ones, your overall rate will increase.
- If you can use a co-signer with an established credit history to help you get better interest rates and qualify for the loan that works best for you.
- Make a financial plan to pay off the loan. You are more likely to successfully pay off your loan if you make a clear budget and stick to it.
- Find a loan that works for you.
How do I Apply?
Application processes vary from lender to lender but there is some basic information that you will need. Collect all of the necessary school information (the school's name, your majors and minors, etc.), your social security number, your current address, your gross income, your residential status (do you rent or own a home), and the requested loan amount.
Once you have all of the necessary information, you can start the application. Most banks have an online application and you might even be able to electronically sign documents. However, if you have questions or if you are confused it may be better to meet with a live representative who can walk you through the process.
Find the Best Student Loan Consolidation Rates
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|Company||Interest Rates||Loan Amounts|
|LendKey Student Loans||3.25-7.26%||$7,500-175,000|
|CommonBond Student Loans||3.50-7.74%||$10,000-500,000|
|DRB Student Loans||4.20-7.20%||$5,000-500,000|
Another consideration you should make before choosing to consolidate student loans is you're your interest rates. The interest rates of a refinanced student loan depend on the average interest rate of all the separate loans that go into it. If your loans all have fairly similar interest rates, then the interest rate of the combined loan will be close to watch you are paying on the individual loans currently.
The interest rates of a refinanced student loan depend on the average interest rate of all the separate loans that go into it.
However, combining small interest loans with large interest loans may cause you to pay more. If you have several low-interest loans and a one high-interest loan, it may be better to consolidate the smaller ones and leave the higher ones out.
Look for Extra Perks
When you consolidate loans, the old loans are paid off by the new consolidation loan. That means any perks or discounts you had with your old lenders are gone. Consolidating multiple loans may mean that you lose the perks that come with the some of your specific lenders, especially if you have a federal loan.
Student Loan Income Based Repayment
Paying off loans after you graduate can be tough, especially if you are in lower paying jobs to get your foot in the door. Some consolidation loans come with income-based repayment plans. This means that your monthly payments are dependent on your income.
If you are in a low paying job, your payments will be manageable and when your make more money you can contribute more to paying off your loan.
Meet the Best Student Loan Consolidation Companies
With college costs increasing, there is no shortage of student loan consolidation lenders available. As a response to high student loan debt in this country, many online companies have popped up with the goal to offer better options.
I've taken a look at the industry to uncover what makes certain companies stand out. My review of the leading student loan companies lead us to our top choices, all of which offer a variety of consolidation and refinance options. Read through more information on student loan consolidation and refinancing.
Here's an introduction to a few of our favorite online lenders:
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- Consolidation for federal and private loans
- Choice of 5, 10, 15 or 20 year repayment terms
- Consolidates graduate and undergraduate loans
- Allows credit scores that are medium and above
- Loan payments are paused when you are unemployed
- You must complete a degree to qualify
SoFi is a leading lender in the online market, serving over professionals with over $5 billion loans issued. The company aims to revolutionize lending with a "nontraditional underwriting" process that takes more factors than a simple credit score. Though SoFi takes job history, education and other merits into account, they are known for their discerning qualification process. SoFi prefers to lend to those that they consider "early stage professionals." This causes them to be very selective in their loan qualifications, preferring those who have degrees, a job and a high credit score. If you do qualify, you gain access to several excellent features like competitive fixed rates, unemployment protection, live customer support and career building support.
LendKey Student Loans
- Average saving of over $15,000
- Offers refinancing for private and federal loans
- Initial interest-only option to keep payments low
- The consigner is released after 12 consecutive payments
- Not-for-profit lender network has lower minimums for approval
LendKey is another online lender but they don't offer direct consolidation loans. Instead, they connect consumers to a network of over 13,000 local banks and credit unions. Because of this, you have access to a huge network of lenders all on one website under one account. LendKey offers reasonable rates, the ability to consolidate federal and private loans together and you have the option to release your co-signer after 24 full, consecutive payments. The company is also known for excellent customer support with high levels of customer satisfaction. Lendkey also offers the ability to return your loan without fees for 30 days after accepting.
- Flexible repayment terms
- Competitive rates
- Sophisticated data analysis
- Autopay discounts
- Handles your loan on sight
- Not BBB accredited
- Only available in 29 states (and D.C.)
Earnest aims to streamline the lending process for "financially responsible" people by cutting out unnecessary costs and offering low rates. Earnest's fixed rates are on the low end, starting as low as 3.38%. They also offer merit-based loans, which means they take things like employment status, income, payment history and bank account balances into consideration during the approval process, rather than a simple credit score. This is ideal for recently graduated students who may not have established much credit history. Because of this, applicants should be prepared for a thorough application process. However, if you feel that your credit score doesn't accurately report your ability to pay, it may be worth the extra effort.
CommonBond Student Loans
- Flexible repayment terms of 5, 10, 15 and 20 years
- Low interest rates that can substantially reduce the loan’s total cost
- Friendly customer service to make your application and repayment process smoother
- Refinancing packages for both students and
- Lack of an income-based repayment program
CommonBond is a student loan company founded by three graduate students that experienced the difficult of tradition student loan programs. As a response, they decided to offer a better alternative through competitive pricing, intuitive technological support and helpful customer service. CommonBond started offering loans to the graduate students of one university; today, they serve both graduate and undergraduate from 2,000 universities. While that is an impressive list, it isn't exhaustive. CommonBond loans are not available to every school. There is no loan maximum; instead, you can borrow as much as they determine you are able to repay.
DRB Student Loans
- No Pros
- Higher interest rates than other lenders
- Does not allow co-signer
Darien Rowayton Bank or DRB, is a traditional Connecticut-based bank and national lending company focused on student loans and consolidation. Though they only have physical branches in their home state, they offer online loans across the country. DRB is a direct lender, funding all of the loans it provides on its own. DRB offers competitive fixed and variable rates. They also offer a helpful cosigner program. Many banks and lenders require a cosigner to stay on the loan for a set amount of time but, with DRB, your cosigner can be released as soon as your credit score reaches an acceptable number.
3 Resources to Help Find the Best Student Loan Refinancing
For some additional information before choosing a student loan consolidation lender, take a look at the following resources:
1. Student Debt Study
Student debt is a prominent issue in the US. We've taken a deep look at the numbers to find which states are the best and the worst in terms of the monetary burden its students carry.
2. Compare Student Loan Consolidation Rates
After review the top student loan refinancing companies, compare student loan refinance rates side by side with this tool. Move the sliders to positions that reflect your loan or the loan you hope to find and see the rates that are offered by the top lenders.
3. Student Loan Calculator
To calculate your student loan monthly payments and your total repayment, take a look at this student loan calculator. This can give you an idea of what loan amount you can afford to pay back and the loan term you should look for. It can also help you see how different rates can affect the overall cost of the loan.
Student Loan Consolidation Advice
Before you begin shopping for student loan refinancing, visit our advice section to learn more about what you should be looking for.
- What can you do if you can't find a job and it's time to start paying back your student loans? Finding a job after graduating can be difficult for some students and, with the deadline to start making payments is approaching, you may start to feel overwhelmed. You have a few options if your loan payments are going to be too much to handle. Consolidation can lower your monthly payments and combine them all into one simple loan. Some lenders have safeguards for unemployment and programs to help you find a job. Before you panic, talk to your lender and ask them about your options. If you can't avoid making payments before finding work, take a look at some of these helpful tips.
- For federal loans, you have some pretty good refinancing options. A Direct Consolidation Loan can combine multiple federal loans, with fairly helpful plans based on your income. However, you may not have that option if you have a loan from a private lender. However, the online lenders discussed above are an excellent option if you are stuck with multiple private loans. Some lenders will even finance private and federal loans together. However, this should be done carefully. By consolidating a private loan with a federal loan you may give up attractive benefits available from the government.
- The choice to consolidate student loans ultimately comes down to the choice between lower monthly payments or a shorter loan term. In some cases, you can actually save money in interest if you combine the right loans and find a lender that offers favorable interest rates. However, it's likely that consolidation will lengthen your loan term and ultimately cause you to pay more in overall interest. On the other hand, if you don't think you'll be able to make your monthly payments, consolidation can be a big help. Be sure to do the math to find out if consolidation is a good option and take a look at these other tips.
- Student loan consolidation isn't just for students who have recently graduated. Parents often take out student loans for their kids. The government even offers a special PLUS loan for parents with dependent children. Some lenders offer special programs for parents who are looking to consolidate. For instance, SoFi offers no-fee parent PLUS refinancing options that can help you lower your payments and, in some cases, pay less.
- Many students fresh out of college haven't yet had a chance to build credit. The state of your credit report is an important thing to consider, especially if you plan to make big purchases in the future. If you decide to consolidate your loans, it's important to know how your credit will be affected. Right after consolidation, the multiple closed loans may negatively impact your credit. However, this may just be temporary. Too many lines of credit may have been hurting your credit already, and closing some can help. Ultimately, making consistent payments on a consolidation can help you slowly build it back up.
Best Student Loan Consolidation Review Recap
Choosing the right student loan consolidation company can be difficult. Think about your income and your ability to make monthly payments and the interest you will be paying overtime. Find a good balance between affordable payments and long term cost.
If you are looking for student financing in anticipation for a new college career, it's important to find a lender that can help you without becoming a financial burden. Take a look at your options in our review of the best student loans.
As a student, credit card companies often market to you. However, the best student credit cards can help you build credit and offer helpful perks and could therefore be a good option.
Best Student Loan Consolidation FAQs
What is loan consolidation?
Multiple student or parent loans can be combined into one consolidation loan from a single lender. The proceeds from the new loan are used to retire the balances on the older loans. A consolidation loan may allow for adjustment to repayment terms, reduced monthly payments or lower interest rates.
Can you refinance a student loan?
Private student loans can be refinanced with private lenders. For federal student loans, explore refinancing first through federal student loan programs to retain the benefits of the original federal loan. It is possible to refinance federal and private student loans together into a private consolidated loan. Potential benefits include a more manageable monthly payment.
How do I get a lower interest rate on my student loans?
Many private lenders offer an interest rate reduction (typically .25%) if you sign up to auto-pay your student loan directly from your checking account. Federal Direct Loans offer a .25% rate reduction if you auto-pay. Also, look to qualify for lower interest rates when refinancing student loans with private lenders.
Can a married couple consolidate student loans?
Married couples can refinance private and federal student loans together with a private lender. If the couple has loans via the Federal Direct Loan program, they cannot use a federal consolidation loan to refinance student debt. Private lenders may offer an attractive refinancing rate depending on credit scores.
How Can I Consolidate Student Loans?
The process of consolidating student loans depends on the type of loans you have and where they've come from. If you have federal student loans, you may have certain rights and protections that you would forfeit if you consolidated into a private loan. If you have private student loans, you cannot consolidate with a federal consolidation loan.
If you have federal loans, a federal consolidation loan might be your best bet. If you have private student loans, or a mixture of federal and private loans, a private lender might be your best option.
Make sure consolidation is your best choice and be aware the rights and features that come with your specific loans.
Should I Consolidate My Student Loans?
Consolidating student loans can be a good way to deal with monthly repayment struggles but it can also affect your credit score. Make sure you know all the facts before you decide to combine your debts.
If you have debts less than $10,000 it may not be worth it to consolidate. Some lenders won't even give out loans for less than that. If you are managing your payments well but you are looking for a better option, consolidation may cause the length of your loan term to increase, which means more interest accrued over a longer period of time.
Instead, you should only consider consolidation if you are having trouble making your monthly payments. Combining your loans into one payment each month can make your finances more manageable.
What is student loan consolidation?
Student loan consolidation is combining several student or parent loans into a single loan with one interest rate. Consolidation would ideally give you a better rate and more repayment plan options.
Is there a difference between consolidating private loans and federal loans?
There is a major difference between federal and private loans especially when it comes to consolidation. Federal loans are generally easier to consolidate and federal programs offer some very helpful consolidation programs. You can choose from several different payment plans, even ones where your payments are based on your income. Options like these are also offered by some private loan consolidators but it is not as common. It is very difficult to consolidate private and federal loans under the same plan. If you have both you might have to pay them back separately.
Can you consolidate private and federal loans together?
Not with federal consolidation loans. Private and federal student loans have to be consolidated by either private or federal consolidation loans separately. Some consolidation companies only handle one type, but several have options for both. Private lenders may be willing to consolidate both federal and private loans.
Am I eligible to refinance/consolidate my student loans?
The eligibility requirements of student loan consolidation vary from lender to lender and from state to state. However, there are some general criteria you must meet first including:
- You must be a US citizen of a permanent resident.
- You must have graduated from qualifying schools.
- You are at the age of majority in your state.
- You must be employed or have an offer of employment.
Can I consolidate federal loans with private loans?
Technically, yes, but it might not be a good idea. Federal loan programs come with a variety of benefits and governmental protections that you would lose if you consolidate into a private loan.
How long does it take to consolidate?
Federal consolidation can take as long as 60 to 90 days, while private consolidation/refinancing can happen on the same day (some companies claim that you can refinance in as little as 15 minutes).
Can you consolidate loans that are in grace periods?
If you have a loan that is in a grace period (a period of time while in school or recently out of school that you do not have to begin repaying the loan), you can consolidate it. However, you may forfeit the remaining grace period.
Do any private lenders honor grace periods?
Yes, some lenders, like SoFi, will honor grace periods if you refinance with them. To find out for sure, check the lenders individual policy.
Will consolidation extend the life of my loan?
Most likely, yes. When you consolidate your goal is lower monthly payments and lower overall interest. That means the length of time it takes to repay the loan will be longer. It may also mean that you pay more money overall because it has longer to accrue interest (unless you lower your interest rate substantially).
Should I consolidate loans if I intend to go back to school?
If you are planning to go to graduate school, you may be able to defer the loan, in which case, you might not need to consolidate. Consolidating into a private loan might forfeit those options. However, if you consolidate with a federal Direct Loan Consolidation, you may still be able to defer.
How does consolidation change my repayment options?
When you receive a student loan consolidation loan, you get access to the new lender's consolidation options. You may be eligible for longer repayment plans, plans with lower monthly payments and some lenders allow you to change repayment to a different repayment plan after your chosen one.
Is there a difference between consolidation and refinancing?
Some lenders do define refinancing differently than consolidation. While consolidation yields and interest rate that is the average of the interest rates of the combined loans, refinancing is designed to yield a lower interest rate.
Can you refinance/consolidate jointly with a spouse?
Generally, no. At one time you could have combined your loans in federal consolidation programs but as of 2006, Congress passed a law denying joint federal student loan consolidation. Some private lenders allow joint consolidation, but many don't.
Should I choose a fixed or variable interest rate?
Fixed rates are more predictable, making it easier to plan your repayment. Although, variable rates start out lower than fixed rates, they tend to get higher the longer the loan takes to repay. Since consolidation often extends that length of time it takes to repay, a variable rate may be the better option. Look at how specific rate compare to your finances to make a final decision.
Are their minimum and maximum loan amounts?
Most consolidation/refinance lenders set minimums and maximums. Minimums are typically around $10,000, because it is generally not worth it to consolidate less than that. Maximums vary from lender to lender. Sometimes it is simply determined by the maximum amount of your combined loans.
Do consolidation loans have origination fees?
Consolidation loans typically do not come with origination fees, although some private lenders may choose to charge a fee for opening an account. Check the policies of specific providers to be sure.
Can you refinance/ consolidate parent loans?
Yes, Parent PLUS loans can be refinanced or consolidated through many private and federal lenders.
What if I lose my job while repaying my consolidated loan?
If you lose your job and can't make payments, notify you lender before you miss a payment. Many lenders have programs in place for this occasion and are willing to help. However, they are more likely to help if you notify them before defaulting.
Can you refinance/consolidate more than once?
If you have new student loans, you can sometimes consolidate a second time with Federal consolidation loans. With some private lenders, you can bring previously consolidated loans and refinance them with a new lender.
Does my credit score matter?
Your credit score does matter with private lenders. Many require an excellent score to qualify, while others will accept lower scores. You should check individual policies for their credit requirements and if a lack of credit counts against you.