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IBR vs. ICR: How these repayment plans stack up

Go for income-based repayments unless you're a parent borrower.

Updated

Fact checked
The Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan is generally a better deal than the Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan — if you can qualify. You pay a lower percentage of your monthly income and qualify for forgiveness faster. But the ICR Plan is your only income-driven option if you have Parent PLUS Loans.

How these federal repayment plans compare

Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan
Best for... Student borrowers looking for income-driven repayments on FFEL Loans that haven’t been consolidated Parent and student borrowers who want higher monthly income-driven repayments to save on interest
Eligible loans
  • Direct Subsidized Loans
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  • Direct Graduate PLUS Loans
  • Direct Consolidation Loans — can't include Direct or FFEL Parent PLUS Loans
  • Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans
  • FFEL Graduate PLUS Loans
  • FFEL Consolidation Loans — can't include FFEL Parent PLUS Loans
  • Federal Perkins Loans*

*Only qualify if consolidated with a Direct Consolidation Loan.

  • Direct Subsidized Loans
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  • Direct Graduate PLUS Loans
  • Direct Consolidation Loans — can include Direct Parent PLUS Loans
  • Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans*
  • Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans*
  • FFEL Graduate PLUS Loans*
  • FFEL Consolidation Loans* — can include FFEL Parent PLUS Loans
  • Federal Perkins Loans*

*Only qualify if consolidated with a Direct Consolidation Loan.

How much you pay
  • 10% or 15% of your monthly discretionary income — depending on when your loan was first issued
  • Never more than what you'd pay on the Standard Repayment Plan
  • 20% of your monthly discretionary income*
  • Fixed monthly repayments on a 12-year term*

*You’ll pay the lesser of these two options.

Repayment Term
  • 20 or 25 years — depending on when your loan was first issued
  • 25 years
Eligibility requirements
  • Eligible loans
  • High-enough debt-to-income ratio that repayments are lower than what they'd be on the Standard Repayment Plan
  • Eligible loans
Eligible for forgiveness at the end of the term
Eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Required to reapply each year

Yes

Yes

Pros
  • Repayments adjust with your income
  • Cap on monthly repayments
  • Spousal income won't count if you file taxes separately
  • Open to parent borrowers
  • Save on interest compared to other income-driven repayment plans
  • Repayments adjust with your income
  • Cap on monthly repayments
  • Spousal income won't count if you file taxes separately
Cons
  • Not open to parent borrowers
  • Longer term and higher monthly repayments for older loans
  • More paperwork annually
  • No FFEL Loans
  • Highest monthly cost of income-driven repayment plans
  • More paperwork annually
Learn more
Learn more

You can find out how all of your options stack up by reading our guide to student loan repayment plans.

Interested in refinancing instead? Compare your options

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR
SoFi Student Loan Refinancing Variable Rate (with Autopay)
650
Full balance of your qualified education loans
2.25% to 6.09%
A leader in student loan refinancing, SoFi can help you refinance your loans and pay them off sooner.
Purefy Student Loan Refinancing (Variable Rate)
620
$300,000
2.27% to 7.49%
Refinance all types of student loans — including federal and parent PLUS loans.
Credible Student Loan Refinancing
Good to excellent credit
None
1.99% to 9.24%
Get prequalified offers from top student loan refinancing providers in one place.
Splash Financial Student Loan Refinancing
650
None
1.89% to 6.66%
Save on your student loans with this market-leading newcomer.
Education Loan Finance Student Loan Refinancing
680
None
2.39% to 6.01%
Lower your student debt costs with manageable payments, affordable rates and flexible terms.
Earnest Student Loan Refinancing
650
$500,000
1.99% to 5.64%
Get a tailored interest rate and repayment plan with no hidden fees.
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Compare up to 4 providers

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