Thinking about refinancing your Sallie Mae student loan to get a lower interest rate? You can't refinance a Sallie Mae loan through Sallie Mae--but there are lots of other lenders who will let you refinance. And it's a smart move--one that could save you a ton of cash. Here's what you need to know.
Should you refinance your private student loan?
First, let's talk about how student loan refinancing works.
When you refinance, you take out an entirely new loan to pay off your existing student loans. If you have a good credit score, you may qualify for a better interest rate.
Even a small interest rate reduction can shave years off your loan payments and save you money over the life of loan. In fact, the average borrower who refinances is able to save over $16,000 over the life of their loan.
You can also lower your monthly payments by extending the term of your loan. Many people are able to reduce their payment amounts by over $250 a month. Bear in mind, though, that this may result in paying more interest over time.
If you still have questions about refinancing, you might want to consider taking this 7-question quiz: Is Student Loan Refinancing Right for You?
Once you've decided that refinancing is a go, the next step is to tackle the application process.
How to refinance your student loan
1. Check your credit score
The application process for refinancing is fairly simple, but before you get started, you might want to check your credit score.
Lenders have specific criteria you must meet in order to qualify for refinancing. Most want you to have a good credit score (680 or higher), but they may also look at your employment situation and debt-to-income ratio.
The interest rate on your new private student loan will be based on your credit score. So, if it's not as high as you'd like, take some time to boost it up.
2. Decide how you want to save
Plenty of lenders will refinance your student loans for you, but not all created equal.
It's important to pick a reputable lender that will not charge you any fees to refinance your loan.
It's also smart to select lenders that will offer payments terms that fit your unique situation. For example, maybe you want to pay off your loan fast, so having a low, variable-rate loan with a five-year payment term would be a good option. Or, perhaps you want to increase your monthly cash flow by having a 15- or 20-year payoff.
Use our handy calculator to view offers from several different lenders at once.
Gather all of the materials you'll need to complete the online application. This process shouldn't take more than 15-30 minutes if you have all your documents in order.
Make sure you have:
- The most recent statement for each loan you want to refinance. It needs to show the loan amount—both original and current— as well as the interest rate, servicer name and address, and payoff date.
- A driver's license, passport, or bank statement that can be used to verify your address.
- Your last month's pay stub.
- Your most recent tax return.
- Proof of graduation.
You can expect a conditional loan approval within minutes. In some cases, the lender may ask you for additional documentation. It usually takes about about three to four weeks for your new lender to pay off your old loans and request the first payment.
Even though this seems quick, it's important that you continue to pay on your old loan until you receive an invoice from your new lender.
3 awesome deals you might want to consider
Thinking seriously about refinancing your student loan, but not sure which lender to choose? We’ve started the research for you.
These three lenders offer under-the-radar deals that most student borrowers don’t know about—but they should. They don’t charge extraneous fees, they have great customer service, and they offer some of the lowest rates in the industry.
Here’s an overview.
LendKey connects borrowers with a network of over 13,000 credit unions and small community banks nationwide. These lenders offer some of the best rates and most borrower-friendly terms, but aren’t easy to find if you’re not in their community.
LendKey will match you to lenders based on your financial situation, and will service your loan once you refinance. This network offers some of the lowest interest rates we’ve found, starting at 2.47% for a variable-rate loan.
CommonBond stands out for its unique social promise. For every loan it refinances, it commits to putting one child in a developing country through school. To date, CommonBond has donated over $1 million to children’s education, and paid for the construction of over 470 schools.
CommonBond also offers the Hybrid Loan—a type of loan that combines the best parts of fixed and variable-rate loans.
Fixed-rate interest doesn’t change over the life of the loan, while variable-rate loans have an interest rate that fluctuates. Usually, you can score a lower initial rate by choosing a variable-rate loan—but it may go up over time.
The Hybrid Loan is a 10-year loan that’s fixed for the first five years, and then variable for the next five. You get some of the stability of the fixed-rate loan, with the lower interest of a variable-rate loan.
Instead of sorting its borrowers by credit history and income, Earnest looks at each person’s unique financial history—in order to give each borrower the best possible interest rate.
Unlike many other lenders, Earnest does not have a minimum income requirement to qualify for refinancing. They’ll take a look at factors other lenders don’t, including your career trajectory, pattern of savings, and investment history.
They’ll let you set your own monthly payment based on your budget—and will tailor the length of your loan to make it happen. Their rates start at 2.47% for variable-rate loans.
You can also switch between fixed and variable rates—another unique feature most lenders don’t offer.
Are you ready to refinance your private student loan? Check out our Student Loan Refinancing Calculator to see how much money you could save.