What Happens If You Miss a Student Loan Payment?

A missed student loan payment results in late fees and eventually your loan will default.
Ryan LaneSep 1, 2021

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If you miss a student loan payment, you're penalized for it. Credit damage and late fees are the main consequences of missed payments, but if you fail to catch up, and tax refund garnishment can arrive once your .

Don’t wait to take action once you’ve fallen behind. Here’s what happens if you miss a student loan payment, as well as the best ways to avoid future late payments.

If your federal student loan payments are past due, here’s what you can expect to happen and when:


Private loans have many of the same consequences for missed payments, but they’re not standardized like federal loans. For example, a lender’s late fee could be a percentage of your payment or a flat fee, like $25.

Private lenders may report late payments after 30 days, and default happens sooner for private loans — often after 120 days — further damaging your credit. And while private lenders can’t take your tax refunds to collect on defaulted student loans, they can sue you to gain additional collection power, including garnishing your wages.

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Missing one student loan payment isn’t disastrous, but you’ll want to pay the past-due amount before the consequences ramp up. The best way to get back on track will depend on why you fell behind in the first place:

Contact your lender or servicer once you’ve identified the best solution. If this was your first time missing payments, ask to waive any late fees. They may give you a break, especially if you have a plan to avoid additional late student loan payments.

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