The best private student loans will have interest rates of LIBOR + 2.0% or PRIME - 0.50% with no fees. Such loans will be competitive with the Federal PLUS Loan. Unfortunately, these rates often will be available only to borrowers with great credit who also have a creditworthy cosigner. It is unclear how many borrowers qualify for the best rates, although the top credit tier typically encompasses about 20% of borrowers.
The fees charged by some lenders can significantly increase the cost of the loan. A loan with a relatively low interest rate but high fees can ultimately cost more than a loan with a somewhat higher interest rate and no fees. (The lenders that do not charge fees often roll the difference into the interest rate.) A good rule of thumb is that 3% to 4% in fees is about the same as a 1% higher interest rate.
“Students who are able to pay off their loan relatively quickly have often sided with a variable rate,” said Dayan. “However, the longer it takes a student to pay off the loan with variable rates, the more chances there are for the rates to change over the lifetime of the loan. If a student’s future income is uncertain, and they don’t plan on paying off the loan quickly, many students consider fixed-rate student loans for more consistency.”
Private student loans are credit based. Students with no credit history or a low credit score may find it difficult to qualify for a private student loan on their own. Students may have the option to apply for a Discover student loan with a creditworthy cosigner. By applying with a creditworthy cosigner, you may improve your likelihood for loan approval and may receive a lower interest rate.
You’ll have a hard time finding a private student loan from a bank, credit union or online lender if you have bad credit. Federal student loans don’t require borrowers to demonstrate creditworthiness, so they’ll be your best option. If you’ve already hit your limit on federal loans, you may be able to get a private student loan if you apply with a co-signer who has solid credit — typically scores in the high 600s or better.
Some private student loan lenders may ask you to submit documents to verify some of this information. Once approved, all lenders require you to sign a promissory note that details every aspect of the loan you’re taking out. Once you’ve accepted the loan and signed all your documents, the lender will typically send the funds directly to your school. If you requested additional funds for school certified expenses, check with the financial aid office at your school to find out how they handle those funds.
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Variable Rates: Starting variable rates range from 3.65% to 11.25% APR (with autopay), and will never exceed 13.95% (sometimes lower in certain states as required by law). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin of between 1.58% and 9.98%. The current one-month LIBOR rate is 2.27%. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Zero fees, period.
CommonBond isn’t just a student lender trying to make money. They do a lot of social good, too, much of which happens through a partnership with nonprofit Pencils of Promise. CommonBond also offers a program for businesses to offer student loan assistance as an employee benefit. Wouldn’t it be great if all employers helped with student loans? CommonBond offers four repayment options that start either in-school or after graduation.
Refinancing replaces multiple student loans with a single private loan at a lower interest rate. You can choose a new loan term that’s shorter than the one you originally received. That may increase your monthly payment, but it will help you pay the debt faster and save money on interest. You’ll also have just one bill to pay, rather than multiple.
Travis Hornsby, founder of Student Loan Planner, suggests creating a refinancing ladder to maximize your savings. “The way you do this is start with a payment you can afford pretty easily, say, a 10- or 15-year loan. Pay extra when you have extra, and you’ll cut down the amount that you owe rapidly,” Hornsby explained. “After a couple of years, you can refinance again to a seven-year loan, often with the same payment but with a lower interest rate. Finally, you could refinance one more time to a five-year loan before you finish paying off the entire amount.”
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.
If you’re thinking about signing up for an income-based repayment plan, this may not be the best choice if you want to pay off students loans fast. Income-based Repayment or Pay As You Earn plans may not cover all of the interest that’s accruing, which can lead to capitalized interest. In the short term, you may feel better covering your payments, but you may end up owing more in the long term.
College/universities may charge a credit card processing fee (or convenience fee). This is in addition to the interest charges the credit card company imposes. Many lenders waive the origination fee. For certain borrowers, this may even make private student loans an attractive option over federal loan options (such as Parent PLUS and Grad PLUS programs).
It takes a while to qualify for a cosigner release, 36 on-time payments to be exact. Fixed interest rates range from 6.45 to 12.05% and variable rates go from 6.42 to 12.02% APR. Like with most student lenders, you can get a 0.25% rate discount with automatic payments. Citizens charges no origination or pre-payment fees of any kind. You should never have to pay an extra fee to pay off your student loans early, but those types of lenders don’t make it on this list.
Overview: This online-only lender, which was founded by former Sallie Mae executives, distinguishes itself with increased flexibility. Borrowers can expect greater in-school and post-school repayment options than what’s found elsewhere. Also, students and parents alike will appreciate perks, such as no fees and low rates, in spite of a slow path to cosigner release.
With our Standard Repayment Plan, the plan you’ll enter if you don’t take any action, you’ll have your loans paid off in 10 years. If you can’t afford that amount or if you need or want lower payments because you haven’t found a job, aren’t making much money, or want to free up room in your budget for other expenses and goals, you should apply for an income-driven repayment plan. Your monthly payments will likely be lower than they would on the standard plan—in fact they could be as low as $0 per month—but you’ll likely be paying more and for a longer period of time. If you choose an income-driven plan, you must provide documentation of your income to your loan servicer each year (even if your income hasn’t changed) so that your payment can be recalculated. To compare the different repayment options based on your loan debt, family size, and income, use our repayment calculator.