How to make payments, contact customer service and avoid common problems.
Great Lakes is one of the largest student loan servicers in the country that handles both public and private student loans. It has a user-friendly website, though making payments by mail can be complicated. It also might not be the best servicer if you want to pay off your loan early or sign up for an income-driven repayment plan.
How do repayments work with Great Lakes?
There are several ways you can make repayments through Great Lakes, including a couple of online options. Making payments by mail is particularly tricky with this servicer — you’ll have to download and print a statement to send with your check.
Have your checkbook or bank account information on hand if it’s your first time: You’ll need your account and routing number.
Case study: Anna’s experience
The Department of Education assigned my student loans to Great Lakes a few months after I finished graduate school. So far I’ve had a pleasant experience, though I haven’t had to make any changes or interact with customer service.
I thought the servicer did a good job explaining how repaying student loans works and breaking down the repayment program. Once everything was set up, I enrolled in autopay and downloaded the app. Now I get a notification before my payment is due and another one when it goes through. That’s the only time I have to think about my student loans.
How can I pay off my loan early?
You can either make small additional repayments or pay off your loans in full. Making partial payments works a lot like making any repayment online.
Great Lakes automatically applies all excess payments toward the loan with the highest interest rate — this saves you the most money in the long run. However, you can opt to choose how you’d like your online payment to be applied by checking the box that reads: I’d like to review and allocate my excess payment while scheduling my payment.
Paying by mail? Reach out to the Great Lakes customer service team over the phone to find out how to manage the way your extra payment is applied.
How to contact customer service
Borrowers have several ways to get in touch with Great Lakes customer service:
How to refinance your Great Lakes student loans
You can refinance your Great Lakes student loans by applying for another loan from a private lender to pay off your current student loans. Refinancing is the only way to change your servicer if you have private student loans and could be a good option if you’d prefer working with a different company. You could also end up with more favorable rates and terms.
Refinancing federal loans
You might want to think carefully before refinancing federal loans. That’s because federal loans come with benefits that private lenders can’t offer, such as forgiveness programs, flexible deferment and forbearance options and multiple repayment plans.
If possible, consider applying for a Direct Consolidation loan instead — that allows you to switch your servicer while keeping your loans with the Department of Education.
Compare student loan refinancing options
How to avoid common problems with Great Lakes
While Great Lakes has a relatively user-friendly website, borrowers aren’t always satisfied with their experience. It gets an F rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as of December 2018, though it’s only closed four complaints in the past three years. However, nearly 1,000 customers have filed complaints against Great Lakes with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Here are two common issues borrowers ran into when working with Great Lakes to pay back their student loans:
Trouble applying for an income-driven repayment plan
Multiple borrowers claim they were either rejected or given the wrong payment amount when they applied for an income-driven repayment plan. At least one even said they were put on the wrong plan every year they reapplied.
- How to avoid it: Triple-check your paperwork before submitting it and keep tabs on your account. Great Lakes appears to resolve most of these complaints after borrowers contact customer service, so reach out as soon as you notice anything wrong.
Trouble processing extra payments
Others reported struggling to have extra payments applied to the loan balance. Some complained that they were put in “paid ahead status” or had payments applied to interest before paying off the loan principal.
- How to avoid it: Try making your extra payments over the phone to make sure they’re applied the way you want. Check your account after the payment goes through to make sure the money went where it was supposed to, and reach out to customer service if you notice any errors.
What to expect with other student loan servicers
Great Lakes can be a seamless servicer if you’d rather pay online and don’t need to make any changes to your plan. It has lots of personalized resources that borrowers can access once they sign in and spells out your options in plain English.
But if you’re interested in an income-driven repayment plan or paying off your loan early, you might want to consider consolidation or refinancing to switch to another servicer. Check out our guide to student loans to learn more about how it all works.