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Can You Refinance Student Loans?

You can refinance student loans by meeting a lender’s financial and educational criteria.
March 18, 2020
Loans, Student Loans
Can You Refinance Student Loans?
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Got federal student loans?

Refinancing your loans privately means you give up current and potentially future COVID-19 relief.

You can refinance student loans if you meet a lender’s eligibility criteria. Requirements vary by lender, but you or a co-signer will typically need the following to qualify:

  • Eligible student loans.
  • A credit score in at least the high 600s.
  • Enough income to afford all your debts.
  • A degree from a qualifying college.

Many lenders will prequalify you for student loan refinancing via a soft credit check. This won’t affect your credit score and will let you know if you can refinance student loans before you officially apply.

» MORE: Compare custom student loan refinancing offers

Which student loans can you refinance?

You can refinance both federal and private student loans — even if you’ve previously consolidated or refinanced them. There’s no limit on the number of times you can refinance.

Not all lenders will refinance federal PLUS loans, but the majority do. Fewer let you transfer a parent PLUS loan into the child’s name. If that’s your goal, check that the lender allows it before you apply.

» MORE: Best parent PLUS refinance lenders

You can’t transfer private loans to the federal government; you can only refinance with a private lender. That means you’ll lose access to programs like income-driven repayment and loan forgiveness by refinancing federal student loans. Consider whether you’ll need these options before refinancing.

You can only refinance with a private lender.

Refinancing private student loans can be no-brainer if you qualify for a lower rate since you won’t lose government loan benefits.

Estimate your potential refinance savings

Are you eligible to refinance student loans?

Whether you’re refinancing federal student loans, private student loans or a mix of both, lenders are looking for borrowers who have:

  • Good credit. You typically need a credit score that’s in at least the high 600s. Many lenders cater to borrowers who have scores in the 700s or higher. If you have bad credit, you may still be able to qualify by applying with a co-signer.
  • A history of on-time loan payments. Lenders will likely dig into your credit report to find evidence that you’ve paid your debts regularly in the past.
  • Enough income to pay your debts. You can refinance with low income, but lenders will want to make sure you can repay the new loan. The required debt-to-income ratio for student loan refinancing is generally 50% or lower. A DTI of 20% or less is excellent.

Lenders will have other eligibility criteria as well. For example, most won’t approve non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents without a co-signer. Prodigy Finance is a notable exception, offering refinancing to international working graduates in the United States.

» MORE: How to refinance student loans

Can you refinance student loans while still in school?

Most lenders won’t let you refinance student loans while you’re still in school. Earnest is one lender that does allow this, but you must be close to graduation to qualify.

Typically, you must have already finished or left college to refinance your loans.

Typically, you must have already finished or left college to refinance your loans. And some lenders require you to have graduated with at least a bachelor’s degree. Most refinance lenders also won’t accept applicants who didn’t attend a school authorized to receive federal aid dollars.

» MORE: Lenders that will refinance loans for borrowers with no degree

For most people, refinancing after finishing school makes sense: It gives you some time to land a job and build the credit and payment record needed to qualify for the best possible rate.

If you have great credit and quickly find a job after graduation that more than covers your bills, it can make sense to refinance as soon as possible. The earlier you get a lower rate, the more you stand to save.

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