How to Pay Off Student Loans Fast

Extra payments will help pay off student loans fast, but you can also refinance to save on interest.
Ryan Lane
By Ryan Lane 
Updated
Edited by Des Toups
How to Pay Off Student Loans Fast

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The fastest way to pay off student loans is to pay more than the minimum each month. The more you pay toward your loans, the less interest you’ll owe — and the quicker the balance will disappear.

you can use a student loan payoff calculator to see how fast you could get rid of your loans and how much money in interest you’d save. Here are seven strategies to help you pay off student loans even faster.

Student loan refinancing from our partners

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5.24% - 9.99%

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650

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Earnest Student Loan Refinance logo

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5.19% - 9.74%

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1. Make extra payments toward the principal

There’s no penalty for paying off student loans early or paying more than the minimum. But there is a caveat with prepayment: Student loan servicers, which collect your bill, may use your extra payment to advance your due date — applying the extra amount to next month’s payment.

Advancing a student loan due date won’t help you pay off student loans faster. That's because your extra payment will first go to any late fees and then accrued interest before hitting your principal. Instead, instruct your servicer — either online, by phone or by mail — to apply overpayments to your principal balance and to keep next month’s due date as planned.

You can make an additional payment at any point in the month, or you can make a lump-sum student loan payment on the due date. Either strategy can save you a lot of money.

For example, let’s say you owe $10,000 with a 4.5% interest rate. By paying an extra $100 every month on a standard 10-year repayment plan, you’d be debt-free about five and a half years ahead of schedule.

2. Refinance if you have good credit and a steady job

Refinancing student loans can help you pay off student loans faster without making extra payments.

Refinancing replaces multiple student loans with a single private loan, ideally at a lower interest rate. To speed up repayment, choose a new loan term that’s less than what's left on your current loans.

Opting for a shorter term may increase your monthly payment. But it will help you pay the debt faster and save money on interest.

For example, refinancing a $50,000 student loan with an 8.5% interest rate and 10-year term to 6% interest on a seven-year term would save you roughly $15,000 — but your monthly payment would increase by about $87.

You’re a good candidate for refinancing if you have a credit score in at least the high 600s, a solid income and a debt-to-income ratio below 50%. You shouldn't refinance federal student loans if you want programs like income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Would refinancing save you money?

Note: This calculator assumes that after you refinance, you’ll make minimum monthly payments.

Step 4: Compare NerdWallet's top-rated student loan refi lenders.

Student loan refinancing from our partners

SoFi Student Refinancing logo
Check Rate

on SoFi

SoFi

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
SoFi Student Refinancing logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR 

5.24% - 9.99%

Min. credit score 

650

Check Rate

on SoFi

Earnest Student Loan Refinance logo
Check Rate

on Earnest

Earnest

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Earnest Student Loan Refinance logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR 

5.19% - 9.74%

Min. credit score 

650

Check Rate

on Earnest

Splash Financial Student Loan Refinance logo
Check Rate

on Splash Financial

Splash Financial

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Splash Financial Student Loan Refinance logo

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Fixed APR 

6.64% - 8.95%

Min. credit score 

650

Check Rate

on Splash Financial