5 private student loan tips to follow in 2020, according to an expert
Private student loans can help close the gap when paying for college education if you’ve already maximized eligibility for federal student loans. Knowing how to handle private student loans as a new borrower or regular borrower is important to staying on track with student debt. These expert tips can help you navigate privately student loan repayment until 2020 and beyond.
1. Start paying interest while you are still in school
Student loan managers can grant a grace period while you’re still enrolled in school, which means you don’t have to pay anything for your loans. But it may be wise to at least pay the interest.
“If a borrower has the financial flexibility to do so, it is always a good idea to start paying off student loans even while in college,” said Kevin Walker, CEO of CollegeFinance.com.
You can do this by contacting your loan officer and asking them how to make payments while you are in school, Walker said. Even small interest payments can help you reduce what you have to pay off later. If you’re looking to lower your monthly payments to make it easier to pay off your student loans, you might also want to consider refinancing (which we’ll get to later). Use Credible to do more research on this topic and see if it’s the right decision for you.
2. Sign up for automatic payments
If you’re already in student loan repayment mode, putting payments on autopilot could be an easy way to save money.
“Almost all private student lenders offer borrowers a rate reduction for automatic payments,” Walker said. This discount is usually 0.25% to 0.50%, but over the life of your loans it could represent substantial savings.
Check your budget and cash flow to make sure automatic payments are achievable. You don’t want to accidentally trigger an overdraft fee with your bank if an automatic payment is made that your balance can’t cover.
3. Don’t borrow more than you need
Borrowing only what you need to pay for your education can keep you from taking on more debt than you can handle.
Walker said the best way to approach this is to start with how many you think you have to pay for school, and then take a closer look at how you might be able to reduce it.
For example, he encouraged asking questions such as:
- Can you travel less often or go to school closer to home?
- Would renting textbooks be cheaper than buying them?
- Is finding a roommate to reduce housing costs a realistic option?
- If you are just starting college, can you take advantage of the AP credits earned in high school to speed up your enrollment?
- Are you able to get a part-time or full-time job to help cover your living expenses?
- Are scholarships, grants, or work-study options available to help pay for education?
Once you have an idea of what you need to borrow, think about how it feels when it’s time to start paying off a student loan. Running numbers through a student loan calculator can help you get an accurate estimate of your payments.
Walker recommended considering what you hope to earn once you graduate. “If the monthly payment seems to be too high, say more than 10 to 12 percent of your income, then you will probably need to reconsider ways to lower your total cost of borrowing.”
4. Consider refinancing when interest rates are low
Refinancing of private student loans could save money on interest and streamline student loan repayments. Walker said that in general, the best time to refinance private student loans is whenever you can lower your cost of borrowing, but be sure to shop around.
For example, you might want to compare the benefits of a fixed interest rate to a variable interest rate when comparing loan options. But it’s important to consider where your credit score and your credit history fit into the mix.
Lenders generally offer the lowest interest rates on private student loans to borrowers with strong credit history. If you have a slim credit history or a lower credit score, it may be necessary to ask a co-signer to help you qualify for lower rate loans.
If you’re not comfortable asking someone to co-sign, Walker said the other option is to work on improving your score before attempting to refinance. When you’re ready to refinance, consider using a online tool like Credible to make comparisons. You can get quotes from multiple lenders without affecting your credit score.
5. Create a plan to pay off your debt
Private student loan debt can easily overwhelm you if you don’t have a plan to pay it off. As you get started with student loan repayments, take an inventory of your loans first.
“One simple thing that all student loan borrowers should do – but often don’t – is keep a list of the different loans they have taken out,” Walker said.
Make a list of each loan you have and the monthly payment, as well as the due date. Then compare the total payment of all your loans against your budget to see if you can afford what you owe.
If your payments are higher than you’d like, consider refinancing if that could lower your rate and / or your payment, Walker said. You can also examine interest rate discounts and any student loan forgiveness or repayment assistance your employer may offer as part of your benefit package.
Consider whether you could make additional principal payments to get your loans paid off faster. And most importantly, stay in touch with your lenders.
If you are unable to pay due to financial hardship, they may be able to offer you flexible repayment options including deferment or abstention programs. Visit Credible to find out more about private student loans and how to manage them.