3 strategies to reduce your monthly student loan payments
The government extended its freeze on federal student loan payments and interest until September, but if you got a student loan from a private lender, you’re probably still stuck on making your monthly payment. And, it can be a major financial burden.
Which begs the question: is there a way to lower your monthly bill? Is it a thing?
You bet it does. Here are three effective strategies for reducing private student loan payments.
1. Take advantage of lender discounts
A good way to reduce your monthly payment is to take advantage of the discounts offered by your private lender. Yes, discounts – which lower the interest rate on your loan, resulting in a lower bill each month:
Hourly payment discounts
Some lenders will offer discounts if you make your payments on time. You’re basically being rewarded for something you should be doing anyway. To benefit from the discount, you will need to earn it. This means maintaining a good payment record for three to four years. Not all lenders offer this discount, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for it.
Private lenders will give you a quarter point (0.25) interest rate reduction if you sign up to automatically pay your monthly bills. A quarter of a percent might not seem like a lot, but it can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lifetime savings. And if you never miss a payment, you could also qualify for the on-time payment discount.
If you or a family member already has a previous account or loan with a bank or other lender, you may qualify for an interest rate reduction on a student loan. For example, Citizens Bank offers a quarter point rate cut if you or your co-signer already have an account there. This is similar to a popular auto insurance discount which can reduce your automobile premiums.
2. Combine multiple student loans into one
If you graduated with an assortment of federal and / or private student loans, you may want to consider consolidating them.
You will no longer have to manage multiple accounts, interest rates, minimum monthly payments, etc. Instead, you consolidate the loans into one account. This not only makes budgeting easier, but can lower your monthly payment as well.
When you consolidate, your new interest rate will be a weighted average of the rates on all of your individual loans – so you won’t necessarily save on your rate. But you might find that one consolidated minimum payment each month ends up costing less than several smaller minimum payments.
3. Refinance your student loans
Refinancing can both lower your monthly payment and reduce the overall cost of your loan. You take out a new loan at a reduced rate that will pay off your existing loan. You will reduce your rate, your payment and your interest costs for life.
Private student loan rates have fallen to record levels, which makes it a great time to refinance. It helps if you meet the following criteria:
You have excellent credit. Your score must be at least within 600s. The higher your credit score, the better the interest rates you will get. Today it’s super easy to check your credit score for free.
You have a comfortable cash flow. There is no sense in refinancing if you will not be able to pay your payments. If your budget is tight, think start a side concert to increase your monthly income.
Whatever you do, don’t default on your student loans. You have options. If you’re having trouble with your bills, call your lender, as you’ll likely find that the company will be happy to help you find a solution.