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How Often Can You Refinance Student Loans?
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How Often Can You Refinance Student Loans?

Conquer your student debt. Refinance now.

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If you have student loans, you may be able to save a significant amount of money by refinancing them—even if you’ve already done it.

As interest rates fluctuate and your personal finances and credit score improve, you may be overpaying on your loans without realizing it. Here’s what you need to know about how often you can refinance student loans. Spoiler alert: There’s essentially no limit.

How often can you refinance student loans?

You’re allowed to refinance your student loans as many times as you’d like to over the course of your loans. Refinancing is essentially just borrowing money via a new loan to pay off an existing lender, so there’s no limit to the number of times you can do this. You’re only limited by the amount of time you have to research what’s best for you.

You can refinance all of your student loans at once or just part of what you owe. It’s important to note that consolidation — which is when you bundle all of your federal student loans into one simple payment, underneath a federal loan servicer — is different from refinancing.

Student loan consolidation only works with federal loans, and you can only consolidate your loans once. You can’t unbundle them once you’ve decided to consolidate, and once you’ve gone through the process and ended up with a single loan and monthly payment, there won’t be anything left to combine.

If you have both federal loans and private student loans, the only way to bundle them together into a single payment is to refinance with a private lender. There are both benefits and drawbacks to this.

The pros of refinancing student loans more than once

Interest rates change all the time, increasing and decreasing as the economy fluctuates and the Federal Reserve influences the cost of borrowing money. That means that if you have student loan debt that you refinanced a few years ago, before the pandemic, there’s a good chance lower interest rates are available now than there were at the start of your repayment term.

Plus, if your financial situation has improved and you’ve been able to establish creditworthiness by making on-time payments on your current loans, there’s a good chance your credit score has increased over the life of your loans, making it easier for you to access the best rates.

Even if you’ve already refinanced once, you may be able to get lower rates now. Here are a few reasons why refinancing again might benefit you:

You could save a significant amount of money

If interest rates have decreased since your last refinance and/or if your credit score and financial situation have improved, you may be able to refi for a much better rate. The lower your interest rate is, the faster you’ll be able to pay down your principal balance, and the less money your loan will cost over time. You can find out how much money a lower interest rate could save you by calculating the total interest over the course of your full loan term.

There’s no fee or penalty to refinance loans again

Lenders generally don’t charge origination fees or levy any prepayment penalties for paying off your loan before the end of your loan term. As long as you meet eligibility requirements — such as having good credit (a score at least 650) — you can refinance your loans for just the cost of the new interest rate.

You may benefit from switching from a fixed-rate loan to a variable-APR, or vice-versa

There are pros and cons to both fixed- and variable-rate loans. The main benefit of variable interest rate loans is that they’re generally lower than fixed-rate options at the outset of your loan, and if interest rates decrease, your rate might get even lower over the life of the loan.

The main benefit of fixed-rate loans is that they don’t change, ever, even as interest rates for new loans fluctuate. So, if your situation has changed or you’ve become more or less risk-averse, refinancing to switch the type of loan you have may provide you either lower rates or more peace of mind — or both. Even if you’re already an Earnest customer, as long as you’re in good standing you can apply to refinance your loan with Earnest to switch between fixed and variable-rate loans every six months.

You may be able to find a better refinancing lender

Every student loan refinancing company is different, offering different benefits for signers. Earnest, for example, lets qualifying borrowers request to skip a payment1 once a year if they need a temporary break from payments. If you’ve refinanced but you’re not happy with your new lender, shopping around to move your loan to a different company could benefit you by more than just saving money.

You may be able to get a better repayment plan

When you refinance your loans, your loan term starts over. Say you currently have three years left on your loan term, but your payments are higher than you can comfortably afford right now. You may be able to refinance your loans for a five-year term or a 10-year term2 so your payments are spread out over a longer period of time, meaning you’ll pay less monthly.

Note that you will likely spend more money on interest over the course of the loan if you take this route, but you’re always able to pay more than the minimum each month so you can get back on track when your financial situation improves.

The cons of refinancing student loans more than once

There may be some downsides to refinancing your student loans again. If you have a fragile credit score, for example, a hard credit check to apply for a loan could damage your score.

Here’s what you should consider before you move forward.

Hard credit check

Applying for a student loan refinance requires a hard credit pull, which can impact your score. If you’re not certain you want to refinance and you’re also in the market for other lines of credit — such as a new credit card or a mortgage — there’s a chance applying for a loan could drop your score a few points into a different range, potentially impacting the rates you’re able to get.

Higher cost long-term

Refinancing with a longer loan term means you may be paying far more over the life of your loan, even if your payments drop significantly on a month-to-month basis.

For example, if you’re refinancing a loan with 5 years left until payoff day with a loan with a 10-year term, depending on your new interest rate and the total loan amount, you may ultimately pay thousands more in interest over the course of the loan.

Losing out on federal protections

If you’ve refinanced private loans once before but haven’t yet done so for your federal loans, you’ll lose out on federal protections, like income-based repayment and forgiveness3, if you choose to refinance them now. The government offers many flexible repayment options that help keep your payments affordable if you’re on a low income or fall into financial hardship.

What should I do before refinancing student loans?

Before refinancing your loans, even before you start researching which company to go with, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re getting the best rates possible. Here are a few steps you can take to put yourself in the best position to lower the overall cost of your loan.

Improve your credit history

It’s generally hard for students and recent graduates to have high credit scores because they haven’t yet developed significant credit history. If you’re looking to increase your score, you can try applying for a credit card and paying it off in full each month (so you don’t accrue any interest), and it may improve your score over time. Continuing to make your student loan payments on time and in full each month will also help improve your score.

Find a cosigner

If you’re not satisfied with the rates offered to you as a primary signer on a refinancing deal, you may be able to get better terms with the help of a cosigner. A cosigner is an individual with a better financial profile than you, who agrees to take on the burden of your student loan payments should you not be able to pay them. It’s a big responsibility and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Make sure you both understand everything you’re getting into before moving forward.

Boost your income

Need a push to ask for that raise or fight for a promotion you’ve earned? Here it is: Increasing your salary improves your debt-to-income ratio, which can make you seem more credible to lenders. You may also be able to increase your income by taking on a side gig or renting out an extra room in your home.

Pay off other debts

Do you have credit card debt, personal loans, or medical debt you’re able to pay off with savings? If so, eliminating it will help improve your debt-to-income ratio, which will make it easier for lenders to offer you a lower interest rate.

Explore other options like student loan forgiveness

If you work in a public service career, you may be eligible for PSLF, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. PSLF eliminates remaining federal loan debt for eligible borrowers who have made 120 on-time, qualifying payments.

What to look for when refinancing

Choosing between different student loan companies interested in underwriting your loans can be a big decision, especially if you’re hesitant to let go of the protections offered by the federal government. Here’s what to look for when considering who to choose.

Loan term preference

The loan term is the length of time you’re offered to pay off the full loan amount. Longer loan terms generally mean lower monthly payments and higher overall interest costs, while shorter loan terms typically are cheaper in the long run, but may be harder to afford month-to-month depending on your circumstances.

You can use a student loan calculator to figure out what loan term makes the most sense for you, and then shop around for lenders offering that term — say, 5 years, 7 years, 10 years or longer — when you look for the best student loan refinancing company for you.

Flexible repayment options

You can save a significant amount of money over the life of your loan by paying more than your monthly minimum each time your bill comes due — or by making your payment biweekly instead of monthly. Earnest allows borrowers to choose between monthly or biweekly payments, and also lets borrowers in good standing skip a payment once a year if need be.

Low interest rates

This is the bare minimum, but it’s worth repeating — you want the lowest interest rate possible so you can pay off your loan faster and save money in the long term. Interest rates have a major impact on how much you pay over the life of your loan. Compare interest rates between lenders and shop around to make sure you’re getting the best rate possible.

Interest rate discounts

Some lenders, like Earnest, will offer you an autopay discount — Earnest’s is .25% — in exchange for signing up for automatic payments from your checking account, so you can be sure you never miss a bill.

Compassionate loan terms

Life happens, and it’s not always easy to make your student loan payments. Private lenders don’t offer the same protections as the federal government, which can help you with forbearance or deferment to take a hiatus from making payments in the event you can’t afford them.

That makes it even more important to choose a lender who shows they understand that everyone needs a bit of slack once in a while. Earnest lets borrowers request to skip a payment once a year and spread it out over the remainder of their loan term if they need a little extra help.

Should I refinance my student loans again?

Refinancing your loans for a lower interest rate can save you a significant amount of money over time. That said, it’s not always the best decision. Here’s the basic breakdown:

Another student loan refinance may be ideal for you if…

  • You’re able to get a lower interest rate
  • You want to switch from a variable-rate APR to a fixed-rate loan
  • You can shorten your loan term and save money over time with a refinance that could help you pay your debt off faster
  • You can afford higher payments if required by the terms of your new loan

Another student loan refinance may not be ideal for you if…

  • You’re not able to get a lower interest rate than you’re currently paying, and you’re not able to find a cosigner who can help you
  • You can’t currently afford to pay any amount of student loan payments — in this case, you should contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss your options
  • You don’t want to push your loan repayment term out further
  • Refinancing would require a shorter loan term and higher payments you can’t afford

See how much you could save with Earnest

Even if you’ve already refinanced your loans once — or more than once— you could still save money by refinancing again. The lower you can get your refinance rate, the faster you’ll be able to pay off your loans and reach your financial goals.

Earnest has some of the lowest rates for refinancing a loan, starting at 1.74% APR for a variable-rate loan or 2.99% for a fixed-rate loan4 when you sign up for autopay. It only takes a couple of minutes to check your potential rate, and savings, and it won’t affect your credit report.

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.

1 Earnest clients may skip one payment every 12 months. Your first request to skip a payment can be made once you’ve made at least 6 months of consecutive on-time payments, and your loan is in good standing. The interest accrued during the skipped month will result in an increase in your remaining minimum payment. The final payoff date on your loan will be extended by the length of the skipped payment periods. Please be aware that a skipped payment does count toward the forbearance limits. Please note that skipping a payment is not guaranteed and is at Earnest’s discretion. Your monthly payment and total loan cost may increase as a result of postponing your payment and extending your term.

2 Earnest’s Loan Cost Examples: These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $XX) and a X.XX% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $XX,XXX.XX. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $XX) and a X.XX% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $XX,XXX.XX. Your actual repayment terms may vary.

3 You may lose benefits associated with your underlying federal and/or private loans if you refinance such as federal Income-driven Repayment Plans, Economic Hardship Deferment, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, or other deferment and forbearance options. If you file for bankruptcy, you may still be required to pay back this loan.

4 Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your financial profile. Fixed rates range from X.XX% APR to X.XX% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from X.XX% APR to X.XX% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 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%. *Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account.

Earnest Loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC. Earnest Operations LLC, NMLS #1204917. 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105. California Financing Law License 6054788. Visit www.earnest.com/licenses for a full list of licensed states. For California residents: Loans will be arranged or made pursuant to a California Financing Law License.

Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC with support from Navient Solutions LLC (NMLS #212430). Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by agencies of the United States of America.

© 2022 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved.

Conquer your student debt. Refinance now.

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Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.