Should I refinance my student loans?

It could help you save if you've made headway in your career.

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In the best cases, refinancing your student loans can help you save on interest in both the short and long term. But it might not be the right choice for everyone — or the right time. Knowing when to apply and when to hold off is key.

Should I refinance my student loans?

Make sure you’re in the right position to get better terms through refinancing before you spend hours researching and comparing lenders.

You could benefit from refinancing your student loans if you have …

  • Private or federal student loans — or both
  • A steady full-time job
  • Excellent credit

You might be able to qualify for more favorable rates and terms by refinancing. Your credit score is solid, and you have a strong, steady source of income to make you a strong applicant.

Think carefully about refinancing if you have federal student loans: You stand to lose key benefits like access to forgiveness programs and income-driven repayment plans. Instead, you might want to sign up for a repayment plan that comes with a shorter term to help you save on interest in the short and long run.

You could benefit from refinancing with a cosigner if you have …

  • Private or federal student loans — or both
  • A new job
  • Fair or better credit
  • Higher student debt load than annual salary

There’s a chance you could qualify for refinancing on your own. But taking on a cosigner with stronger credit, less debt or a longer work history might strengthen your application, resulting in stronger refinancing terms.

Got federal loans? Think carefully about refinancing. You could be giving up valuable benefits. If you’re looking to lower your monthly repayments, you might want to sign up for an income-driven repayment plan instead of refinancing.

You might want to hold off on refinancing if you have …

  • Federal student loans only
  • Bad credit
  • Higher student debt load than annual salary

You might want to wait until you have a stronger credit score, higher income or more work experience before considering refinancing.

But even then, you might not get much out of refinancing your federal loans since they tend to come with lower interest rates than private loans. Plus, you’ll lose access to several benefits that could help make your student loan debt more manageable. Consider signing up for a different repayment plan instead of refinancing.

Compare student loan refinancing offers

Updated November 12th, 2019
Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR
680
$250,000
3.49% to 6.99%
Enjoy no fees, low rates and flexible terms — but only for borrowers with good credit.
660
None
Starting at 2.45%
Save on your student loans with this market-leading newcomer.
Good to excellent credit
None
Starting at 1.81%
Get prequalified offers from top student loan refinancing providers in one place.
680
None
2.39% to 6.01%
Lower your student debt costs with manageable payments, affordable rates and flexible terms.
650
None
1.81% to 6.49%
Get a tailored interest rate and repayment plan with no hidden fees.
650
Full balance of your qualified education loans
1.81% to 5.98%
A leader in student loan refinancing, SoFi can help you refinance your loans and pay them off sooner.
620
$300,000
2.27% to 7.49%
Refinance all types of student loans — including federal and parent PLUS loans.

Compare up to 4 providers

When is the best time to refinance?

The best time to refinance is when you meet all of the following criteria:

  • You have excellent credit. The best deals are available to borrowers with a credit score of 740 or higher.
  • You’ve worked at the same job for a while. Lenders sometimes look at your employment history when you refinance. Having a steady job for a few years can help you qualify for a better deal.
  • Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is below 20%. Your monthly bills — including student loan repayments — shouldn’t be more than 20% of your monthly salary before taxes if you want the best rates.
  • You’re done with higher education. Refinanced loans generally aren’t as flexible as federal loans when it comes to deferring repayments while you’re in school. You might want to hold off until after you’ve completed your degree.

Who can benefit from refinancing?

The following types of borrowers might get the most out of refinancing their student loans:

  • Doctors, lawyers and other high-earners. Your job can influence the rates and terms you qualify for when you refinance. If you work in a traditionally high-salary profession, you might get a lower rate.
  • Private loan holders. Federal loans tend to have lower rates than private loans, especially if nobody in your family has good credit.
  • Graduate PLUS Loan holders. Graduate PLUS Loans come with the highest interest rates of all federal loans, making refinancing a better deal than it might be with other federal loans.
  • New residents. Student loans for international students tend to have higher rates. If you’ve recently become a permanent US resident, you might qualify for lower rates by refinancing.
  • Anyone unhappy with their servicer. Refinancing is the only way to change the company that handles your repayments with private loans — and the only option that can get you a lower rate with federal loans.

Who might want to hold off?

The following types of borrowers might want to avoid refinancing for the time being:

  • Recent graduates. You likely don’t have the credit or income to get a better deal on your own — or in some cases at all. Many refinancing companies have income requirements for both borrowers and cosigners.
  • Bad-credit borrowers. Even with a cosigner, you could have a difficult time qualifying for a better rate — if at all. Many lenders also have minimum credit requirements for both borrowers and cosigners.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) applicants. Refinancing will make your loans ineligible for PSLF — and many other federal forgiveness programs.
  • Low-income borrowers. If your debt repayments are more than 20% of your monthly bills, you likely won’t get a better deal and might struggle to afford repayments.
  • Anyone on an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. Private lenders generally don’t offer IDR plans. And any unpaid interest will be added to your new loan balance — making your loans more expensive in the short and long run.

Bottom line

Refinancing could be a smart financial move after you’ve made headway in your career. But it might not be a wise choice if you’re fresh out of school. You can learn more about how it works by reading our guide to student loan refinancing.

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