Is Lowering Your Student Loan Payments a Good Idea? Here’s How to Decide

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We get a lot of questions about how to lower student loan payments—and there are some legitimate reasons for wanting to do this. But in a variety of situations, it isn’t a good idea and can make repaying your loans more difficult and expensive.

The decision to lower student loan payments really depends on the reason behind it. So, why wouldn’t you want to lower monthly payments? The main reason is that you could end up paying more interest on your loans and increasing the amount of time until they’re paid off. But this isn’t always the case (more on this below).

Here’s when you might, or might not, want to consider reducing your monthly student loan payments.

Consider lowering student loan payments when…

1. Student loan payments eat up a large portion of your paycheck

Just as there are some people who can afford to pay more, others with student loan debts may have financial hardships that keep them from making standard payment amounts. Maybe you’re not earning enough to make your payments and still be able to pay for basic necessities. Or maybe you’ve lost your job or decided to go back to school.

If student loans are causing financial problems, lowering payments is likely the first step to getting things under control. And you can always increase payments later if you choose to.

While there’s no set amount or percentage of income that works for everyone, it’s good to think of payments in these terms. If you have a decent-paying job and can’t afford to pay at least 10 percent of your net income towards your student loans, you may want to reassess your spending before lowering payments.

Keep in mind: Paying more than 10 percent or paying the minimum is possible. Kristin paid off $12,000 in one year. Stephanie paid off about $35,000 in less than four years. Neither paid the minimum or tried to lower payments to pay off their loans.

2. You’re at risk for late payments or defaulting on your loan

To take the above example further, it’s likely to make even more sense to pay less on student loans when you’re at risk of missing payments or defaulting on your loans.

Missing student loan payments is never a good idea, especially if you’re able to change the repayment amount or schedule instead. Missing payments show up on your credit report and can kill your credit score. These late payments stay on your credit report for years.

Defaulting on your student loans is even worse. If you’ve missed many payments, you could end up in default and owe even more on your debt. In this case, you could see extra fees and charges tacked onto your student loan debt. These add to the cost, causing greater problems as you strive to repay your loans.

3. You’re likely to be eligible for forgiveness in the future

While every borrower will be eligible for the income-based Pay As You Earn plan later this year, only some might benefit from student loan forgiveness.

The Pay As You Earn plan caps your payments at 10 percent of your discretionary income. After 20 years of payments, you can have the remaining federal student loan balance forgiven. But the big question is: Will you have a balance left to be forgiven?

Let’s look at the example of what the U.S. Department of Education’s Repayment Estimator says is the average loan balance for the most expensive schooling options: a four-year private, for-profit university. In this case, you’d have an average balance of $34,722 with 3.9% interest.

Assuming a fairly low, starting adjusted gross income of $20,000, you’d have $38,877 forgiven after 20 years with Pay As You Earn. In total, you’d pay $22,928. This is about $19,000 less in total payments compared to the standard repayment ($41,988 total paid).

Lower_student_loan_payments_-_image_1

Source: Studentloans.gov

Besides the Pay As You Earn plan, there’s the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. With this program, you can have select federal loans forgiven after 10 years of working at a qualified nonprofit or public sector job. In this case, you may be more likely to have debt forgiven since it’s 10 years instead of 20 until you’re eligible for forgiveness.

In any case, be sure to investigate your situation. Use student loan calculators, and do the math first before determining your eligibility to have loans forgiven.

4. When you can refinance to save money

Refinancing is one of the few instances where you can potentially lower student loan payments and save money. The reason? You’re typically lowering interest rates and reducing interest charges.

This is often the case when you refinance and consolidate to lower private student loan payments. However, this strategy can potentially work with some federal student loans too.

If you’re looking into reducing your payments, check out our student loan refinancing options, and see how your payments may change if you qualify.

Avoid lowering student loan payments when…

1. You can afford your current payments

While there are clearly some grads who need this kind of help, some don’t. But they may still be eligible for these reduced repayment options.

The real problem with these repayment plans, such as Income-Based Repayment? You’ll pay more interest and make more total payments as you repay your debt. It’s simple—any time you decrease payments without lowering the interest rate too, you’re going to accrue more interest.

This case should also be considered with the next one.

2. You likely won’t benefit from federal student loan forgiveness

I’ve seen many people get excited about student loan forgiveness. The idea is you make payments for 20 years, and after that your remaining student loan balances are forgiven. The problem is that, depending on how much debt you have, there might not be much left to forgive.

Let’s look at the previous scenario for forgiveness again ($34,722 balance with 3.9% interest).

This time, we’ll assume your adjusted gross income starts at $30,000 (rather than $20,000). Run the numbers in the Repayment Estimator again, and you’ll find you won’t have any debt left to be forgiven under Pay As You Earn.

Instead, you’ll have paid a total of $54,329 to repay your loans. This is about $12,000 more than if you had repaid your loans with the standard repayment plan ($41,988 total).

lower_student_loan_payments_-_image_2

Source: Studentloans.gov

In this case, attempting to get forgiveness is a money-losing decision.

3. You’re waiting for outside help from the government

You’ve probably heard about the possibility of the government helping you to refinance loans. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal includes reducing all federal student loan interest rates to the current lowest rate.

While it sounds great, don’t hold your breath. Congress has shown little willingness to pass this or any other bill, so you’re limited to the current repayment options and interest rates for the foreseeable future.

What do you think? Should you lower your student loan payments or not?

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2020!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.99% – 5.64%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.89% – 5.90%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.25% – 6.09%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.89% – 6.77%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

2.39% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

1.99% – 5.41%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

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.


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.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

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.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 2.99% APR to 6.09% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.09% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.25% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 0.18% plus 2.32% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. 

4 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 September 10, 2020.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. ‍All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.16% effective August 10, 2020.

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.