Most federal student loans come with a grace period to give you some breathing room between graduation and your first student loan payment. But what is a grace period, exactly? And more importantly, how does it work?
Read on to learn what a grace period is and how it impacts student loan borrowers like you. Specifically, let’s look at…
A grace period is a period of deferment during which you don’t have to make any payments on your student loans. For most students, your federal loans are in a grace period while you’re enrolled at least half-time in school and for six months after you graduate.
“A grace period is a temporary period after graduation during which no payments are due on a student loan,” said Adam S. Minsky, student loan lawyer. “The idea is that borrowers may need some time to find employment before their loans become due.”
However, while most federal loans offer a six-month grace period, not all of them do.
“Direct loans have a six-month grace period before payments are due, but PLUS loans do not have a grace period (though you may be eligible for an in-school deferment while enrolled),” said Jay Fleischman, student loan lawyer and host of the “Student Loan Show” podcast.
When it comes to private student loans, the rules vary. Some lenders offer a grace period, whereas others expect you to start repaying your student loans right away.
It’s important to read the details of your student loan contract so you understand exactly when your first payment is due. And make sure to talk to your loan servicer and find out when your grace period is over.
Not sure who to call? Find your loan servicer using this guide.
Getting a break from paying back your student loans right away is helpful when easing into adult life by not being bombarded by your student loan balance. While it’s a nice perk of many federal student loans, it’s not a vacation from student loan repayment.
Interest might continue to accrue on your student loans
Depending on the type of student loans you have, the interest may keep accruing on your student loans, even while you’re enjoying your last respite from financial reality.
“It’s important to know that interest continues to accrue on all unsubsidized loans, so your balance will be higher when you begin repayment than when you stopped going to school,” said Fleischman.
If you have a large balance and a high-interest rate, an additional six months of interest could mean paying several hundred dollars more than you originally planned.
Note that interest will also continue to accrue on any private student loan, meaning you’ll face a bigger balance at the end of your grace period than you initially borrowed — unless you make in-school payments.
Consolidating your loans could end your grace period early
Another important thing to note is that if you consolidate your student loans through a direct consolidation loan, your grace period may be cut short. Consolidation can seem like a great solution for borrowers with multiple student loans, but it can also mean losing some perks.
“You lose any remaining grace period if you consolidate your loans,” said Fleischman. “Therefore, if you’re going to consolidate your federal student loans, it’s best to do so once your grace period expires.”
Although many private student loans don’t offer any kind of grace period, some lenders — such as SoFi — will honor your existing grace period if you refinance with them. So if you’re looking to merge your loan balances and get a better interest rate, refinancing could be a good option.
You should take advantage of your grace period by getting a repayment plan in place and preparing financially in these four ways.
1. Find out when your grace period ends
“Borrowers should contact their loan servicers to find out when their grace period ends, and they should understand their repayment before that first bill arrives,” said Minsky.
Your loan servicer should notify you of when your repayment will start, but you don’t want to be surprised when you get your first bill. You also don’t want to miss any payments, which could potentially lead to delinquency or default if you’re not careful.
2. Update your contact information
It’s also really important to stay in touch with your loan servicer and make sure your account information is up to date, such as your phone number and email.
“It is important to update your contact information with your loan servicer if it changes during your grace period,” attorney and student loan expert Heather Jarvis explained.
3. Learn about your repayment plan
Federal loans come with a variety of repayment options like income-driven repayment and graduated repayment.
But if you don’t choose a specific repayment plan, your federal loans will automatically be under the standard repayment plan, which gives borrowers 10 years to pay back their student loans.
Learn about your options, and apply for a plan that works best for your situation. And if you have private student loans, ask your loan servicer about your terms and monthly payments so you know exactly what to expect.
4. Consider making payments during the grace period
If you’re lucky enough to have scored a job right out of college, you can start paying back your student loans before your grace period is up. In fact, you can even make small payments while you’re in your school. While you’re not required to, doing so can help you put a dent in your debt early on.
If your loans are unsubsidized, you’ll be able to minimize how much interest accrues; and if your loans don’t accrue interest during the grace period, you can start attacking the principal balance right away.
Regardless of what you choose, you should mentally and financially prepare for student loan payments during your grace period. Be sure you fully understand your repayment plan and prospective monthly payments.
Your grace period is the time to get all your ducks in a row and pick a debt payoff strategy so you can climb out of debt as soon as possible.
Melanie Lockert contributed to this article.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2020!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 6.66%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.09%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.64%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.98% – 8.55%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of October 1, 2020.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of September 9, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.79% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.64% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of July 31, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 7/31/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
5 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 10/15/2020 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.98% APR to 8.55% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.99% APR to 8.77% Fixed APR with AutoPay.