Student loans can eat up a big portion of your paycheck before it even has the chance to hit your bank account. If you want your debt to go away ASAP, you’re going to have to upgrade your student loan repayment strategy. And this starts with learning how to pay off student loans fast.
Fortunately, you have lots of great options for paying off student loans faster, including:
- Make more than the minimum payment
- Do the math and find your payoff date
- Consolidate and refinance
- Use a cash windfall
- Take a job that offers forgiveness
- Apply your raises
- Avoid repayment programs
- Trim your budget
- Earn extra money with a side gig
- Be strategic about your debt
- Take interest rate deductions
- Take full advantage of tax deductions and credit
- Realize student loans aren’t “good debt” to keep around
- Pay every two weeks
- Visualize the future without student loans
How to pay off student loans fast
To learn more about these options for student loan repayment, and to get a few bonus tips, here’s our guide to paying off student loans fast with strategies that could work for just about anyone.
Effectiveness level: Medium-High
This is one of the easiest ways to reduce your debt. Just take the payments you have and add extra money to the payment. You should already have payments set up, so anything extra goes straight toward your principal.
One easy way to do this: Set up automatic payments with this extra amount added in. This takes any indecision out of the equation and makes it harder for you to change your mind, too.
Even if you can only afford an extra $20 a month, it’s something. Start there, then gradually work on increasing your extra payments.
Effectiveness level: Low
Do you know exactly when you’ll be free of student loan debt? If you answered no, you’re not alone.
But figuring out your payoff date is always a good place to start when it comes to managing debt. Why? Because once you know this date, you can work on moving it closer.
The easiest way to figure this out: Use the National Student Loan Data System to view all of your federal loans and AnnualCreditReport.com to make a list of private loan lenders. Then, confirm payoff dates with your loan servicers.
Effectiveness level: High
Refinancing your loans is one of the best moves out there for paying off student loans faster. The goal of refinancing is to decrease interest rates, meaning more of your payments go toward paying down your student loans.
When you refinance multiple student loans, you’ll get one consolidated loan with one monthly payment. Alternatively, you could refinance just one student loan for lower rates. You’ll likely only want to refinance loans where you can actually decrease your interest rate.
For example, student loan refinancing rates below 3.00% are currently available. For current rates, see our post on student loan refinancing rates.
Effectiveness level: Medium
Cash windfalls come in various forms. These can include lottery winnings, an inheritance, a settlement from a lawsuit or insurance claim and more.
When you suddenly get a chunk of money from these sources or others, you might be tempted to spend it. It’s so tempting that Bankrate reports an increase in lottery winners’ likelihood to declare bankruptcy within three to five years of receiving the cash windfall.
So instead of spending it on stuff you won’t even remember, use it for paying off student loans faster.
Even if you don’t get an inheritance or something similar, many taxpayers get a cash windfall once a year in the form of a tax refund.
There are several tax refund strategies for student loan debt that work for any sort of financial windfall. The main takeaway: Put at least some of your tax refund (and/or cash windfalls) toward student loan repayment, even if you don’t want to devote 100%.
Effectiveness level: Medium-High
Certain jobs, like public service work or teaching, may offer forgiveness for part or all of your student loans. All you have to do is meet the requirements to get your student loans forgiven. See our guides to Public Service Loan Forgiveness and teacher student loan forgiveness for more details.
There is one potential downside: You need to meet all the requirements and complete the full term of work required to get any forgiveness.
Since these forgiveness programs are typically used in conjunction with income-driven repayment plans, your payments will decrease but interest charges will accumulate. If you wind up ineligible for forgiveness for any reason, you’ll be stuck with greater interest charges.
In addition to these federal student loan forgiveness programs, some states also offer loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs). These LRAPs also usually come with a work requirement. If you qualify, you could get money toward paying off your federal (or in some cases, private) student loans.
Effectiveness level: High
Hopefully, you work at a job where yearly raises are part of the compensation. But what do you actually do when you get a raise? You could just get more stuff — a bigger TV, a better car or more exotic vacations. But why not put a chunk of it toward student loan repayment?
We covered this in our post about how to start investing, but the same strategy could be used with student loans. Just put half of your raise amount straight toward student loan payments. This means either upping your automatic student loan payments or transferring the money to a savings account.
Effectiveness level: Varies
You might be focused on lowering your student loan payments; this makes a lot of sense if you’re struggling to repay your student loans. But if your goal is paying off student loans faster, you probably want to avoid income-driven loan repayment programs.
Why would you want to do this? Well, almost all of these federal student loan repayment programs are geared toward decreasing payments by lengthening the term of the loan. This means it’ll take longer to pay off student loans.
For example, Pay As You Earn (PAYE) stretches your federal student loan repayment term from 10 years to 20 years. We don’t have to tell you that’s a much slower repayment period.
Even direct loan consolidation can prevent faster student loan repayment. Why? Because you’re blending all your student loans, which have different interest rates, into one loan. This means you can’t target the high-interest loans with extra payments after you consolidate. For more detail on this, see student loan myth No. 4.
Effectiveness level: Medium-High
If you want to find more money but can’t easily increase your income, decreasing your budget is an option. While it may sound extreme, some have trimmed their budgets drastically by moving to a cheaper apartment, skipping happy hours or meals out, earning more side income and other strategies.
The key to success: You only have to do this in the short term. It’s not for the rest of your life, but rather a short period where you’re focused on paying off student loans faster. A few common strategies are:
- Cancel cable TV
- Don’t go out to restaurants
- Give up alcohol
The options here are really only limited to your creativity and motivation.
Even if you can only handle it for a month at a time, it can still benefit your student loan repayment. Maybe you have a “no-spend month” where you don’t buy any new stuff all month and put the money toward student loans instead.
Effectiveness level: Medium
Along with trimming your budget, you could try supplementing your income with a side gig.
Side gigs come in all shapes and sizes. You could offer a service online, such as tutoring, editing or design. Maybe you could finally clean out your closets and sell your used clothes. Or, as this TV producer did, you could start your own cookie-baking business.
Whatever form your side gig takes, you can use it to earn extra money. Then, take those extra earnings and apply them directly to your student loan balance. Not only will your extra income help you pay off student loans faster, but you also might learn some new skills (and have fun) in the process.
Effectiveness level: Medium
The first step to repaying your loans faster is to add more money to your student loan payment. But how you apply that extra money could make a big difference, too.
For all student loans, it makes the most sense to pay off the highest interest loans first. This is called the “debt avalanche” method, where you pay just the minimum on all but the student loan with the highest rate.
You might be best off targeting private student loans first, too, before focusing on federal student loan repayment. Repaying private student loans often means higher interest rates and less-flexible repayment terms compared to federal student loans. Private loans can have variable interest rates as well, meaning your rate could rise over time.
By targeting the loans with the highest interest rates first, you’ll save the most money on interest.
An alternative approach is called the “snowball method.” This involves paying off your loans with the lowest balances first. Although you won’t save as much on interest, you might get a psychological boost from closing out an account.
Choose whichever method will motivate you to keep working toward your goal of paying off student loans faster.
Effectiveness level: Low
While you can cut down on the cost of your student loans and get some big wins with the strategies above, smaller savings can add up, too. One of them is the interest deduction from signing up for automatic payments.
Many servicers offer a 0.25% interest rate deduction on federal student loans for enrolling in automatic payments. While this isn’t a ton of money, it’s not bad to get a few bucks back.
Besides the interest savings, automatic payments can be a good idea to make life easier. By setting up automatic payments, you don’t have to worry about late or missed payments when paying back student loans (which matters for your credit score). Plus, you can use automatic payments in conjunction with other strategies on this list, like making payments higher than the minimum.
Effectiveness level: Medium
If you’re paying off student loans, you’re likely eligible for the student loan interest deduction on your federal taxes. You may deduct up to $2,500 on your taxes each year for the interest you pay on student loans.
While you must meet other requirements, generally a lot of student loan holders in their 20s will be eligible. That’s because this deduction can be taken even if you don’t itemize your taxes (which many young taxpayers don’t do).
Tax credits can be even more valuable than tax deductions. In general, a $2,500 tax credit will save you more money than a $2,500 deduction will.
You might be eligible for tax credits if you’re currently paying tuition, including while you’re in grad school. While there aren’t any tax credits related to simply paying student loans, it’s worth checking out if you’re currently in college or thinking about going back to school soon. See our post on student loan tax credits for more information.
Effectiveness level: Low
You might hear chatter about “good debt” and “bad debt.” And while student loans are generally a good investment based on increased income potential in your lifetime, along with some deductions, it’s not good debt to keep around.
The good-debt-versus-bad-debt debate is really about how that debt helps you increase the value in something. In this case, it’s the value of a salary.
But while taking out student loans is a good idea, letting them sit around forever isn’t. Interest charges stack up the longer you wait to repay loans.
Of course, you can be strategic when figuring out how to pay student loans, but merely calling student loans “good debt” as an excuse to drag out repayment isn’t a good idea.
Effectiveness level: Medium
Another popular extra-payment strategy for student loans is to make a student loan payment every two weeks.
Now, you don’t need to pay double the amount of your monthly payment to make this work. Instead, here’s the common strategy:
- Split your monthly payment in half.
- Make a payment of that amount every two weeks.
By doing this, you’ll make a full extra payment over the year. The real strength of this strategy is that if you receive a paycheck bi-weekly, you shouldn’t feel the pain of paying the extra amount.
Effectiveness level: Low
While this isn’t exactly a repayment strategy, it can help you find motivation to get rid of your debt, especially if it’s causing a lot of stress in your life.
Here’s an easy way to start your visualization. Think of the one thing you hate most about having student loans. Maybe it’s that you can’t afford to go on a vacation, or maybe you have to eat rice and beans to scrape together enough money to pay your bills. Perhaps you drive a crappy car that breaks down all the time.
Now close your eyes and imagine what your life would be like if that No. 1 most hated thing were no longer a problem because you don’t have student loans. How would your life change for the better? Would you be happier? What would you do without having to worry about student loans?
Is this a life you want to have? With enough hard work, getting rid of your student debt can become reality. Now go get it!
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 5 lenders of 2020!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.99% – 6.65%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.21% – 6.67%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 7.10%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.43%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.21% – 6.69%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
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. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE (“APR”)
There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.
For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
ELIGIBILITY & ELIGIBLE LOANS
Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).
Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.
All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.
For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.
The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.
The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.
POSTPONING OR REDUCING PAYMENTS
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.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.
If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of March 4, 2020 and is subject to change.
2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
3 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Splash Financial loans are available through arrangements with lending partners. Your loan application will be submitted to the lending partner and be evaluated at their sole discretion. For loans where a credit union is the lender, or a purchaser of the loan, in order to refinance your loans, you will need to become a credit union member.
The Splash Student Loan Refinance Program is not offered or endorsed by any college or university. Neither Splash Financial nor the lending partner are affiliated with or endorse any college or university listed on this website.
You should review the benefits of your federal student loan; it may offer specific benefits that a private refinance/consolidation loan may not offer. If you work in the public sector, are in the military or taking advantage of a federal department of relief program, such as income based repayment or public service forgiveness, you may not want to refinance, as these benefits do not transfer to private refinance/consolidation loans.
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 May 1, 2020.
Fixed APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rate options range from 2.88% (without autopay) to 7.27% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.88% per year to 6.21% per year for a 5-year term, 3.40% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term, 3.45% to 5.08% for a 8-year term, 3.89% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term, 4.18% per year to 5.11% per year for a 12-year term, 4.20% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term, or 4.51% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. The fixed interest rate will apply until the loan is paid in full (whether before or after default, and whether before or after the scheduled maturity date of the loan).
Variable APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Variable rate options range from 1.99% (with autopay) to 7.10% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Our lowest rate option is shown with a 0.25% autopay discount. Our highest rate option does not include an autopay discount. The variable rates are based on the Variable rate index, is based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of April 27, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.43763%. The interest rate on a variable rate loan is comprised of an index and margin added together. The margin is a fixed amount (disclosed at the time of your loan application) added each month to the index to determine the next month’s variable rate. Variable rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.01% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term, 4.00% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term, 2.09% per year to 3.92% per year for a 8-year term, 4.25% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 2.67% per year to 4.56% per year for a 12-year term, 3.44% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term, 4.75% per year to 6.93% per year for a 20-year term, or 5.14% per year to 7.10% for a 25-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate may be between 9.00% and 16.00%, depending on loan term. The floor rate may be between 0.54% and 4.21%, depending on loan term. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
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 3.20% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.43% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.39% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.43% 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 June 3, 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 6/03/2020. 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 CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). 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 0.8100000000000002% effective April 10, 2020.