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Refinance Medical School Loans: Compare Options for Doctors

Jan. 17, 2019
Loans, Student Loans
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Refinancing medical school loans is a no-brainer for physicians who won’t use federal loan benefits and have good enough credit to qualify for a lower interest rate.

Reducing your interest rate can make a five-figure difference when you have six-figure medical school debt. For instance, refinancing $196,520 — the average medical school debt in 2018 — from a 7% APR to a 5% APR would save about $200 a month and almost $24,000 total, assuming a 10-year loan term.

Doctors can refinance medical school loans during residency or wait until they become attending physicians. But don’t do either if you’re interested in Public Service Loan Forgiveness or income-driven repayment — refinanced loans aren’t eligible for those programs.

» MORE: How to pay off $100,000+ in student loans

Refinancing during residency

Refinancing is one of several strategies for paying off medical school debt. A few lenders have student loan refinancing programs specifically designed for medical residents. These programs allow residents to pay as little as $100 a month and begin making full payments once their residency is over.

This strategy can ease your financial burden while you’re making less money as a resident.

But interest likely will accrue faster than you can pay it, so you may end up with a balance at the end of your residency that’s bigger than what you started with. Make sure the low payments are worth it to you before taking this route, or make larger-than-minimum payments to keep the interest at bay.

You’ll likely qualify for an even lower rate once you complete your residency or fellowship, so consider refinancing again as an attending physician.

» MORE: Still need to borrow? Compare medical school loans

Compare refinancing options during residency

LenderMinimum payment during residencyGet started

5.0 NerdWallet rating

SoFi review

4.5 NerdWallet rating

Laurel Road review

Refinancing after residency

A second medical school loan refinancing strategy is to use a federal income-driven repayment plan during residency and refinance after you complete your training. Of the four income-driven plans, many physicians use Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE).

This is a good strategy for doctors who don’t qualify for a lower rate as a resident but need lower monthly payments. In this case, work on building your credit during residency so you can get the lowest possible rate in the future. You’ll have more options for refinancing medical school loans once you have a higher income as an attending physician.

» MORE: PAYE vs. REPAYE: How to choose

Compare refinancing options after residency

LenderAPRGet started

Fixed: 3.89% - 8.07%
Variable: 2.55% - 7.12%

Fixed: 3.5% - 7.89%
Variable: 2.49% - 7.27%

Fixed: 3.39% - 6.69%
Variable: 2.8% - 6.01%

Fixed: 3.89% - 8.074%
Variable: 2.49% - 7.105%
Fixed: 3.64% - 7.5%
Variable: 2.53% - 9.06%

Fixed: 3.5% - 7.02%
Variable: 2.5% - 6.65%

Fixed: 3.87% - 7.03%
Variable: 3.1% - 7.84%

Fixed: 3.89% - 9.99%
Variable: 2.98% - 9.72%

Fixed: 5.74% - 8.49%
Variable: 4.74% - 7.74%
Ready to compare all your student loan refinancing options?

Readers also ask

There are many tactics for paying off medical school debt, including refinancing medical school loans, seeking loan forgiveness for doctors and making payments on an income-driven repayment plan. The best strategy for you depends on factors including the types of loans you have — federal or private — and your career goals.
Loan forgiveness for doctors typically requires that you practice in the public sector or in an underserved area for a certain period of time. If your career plans align with a program’s requirements, forgiveness may be worth pursuing.
There are several federal and state medical school loan forgiveness programs. The best program for you depends on your career plans and whether your have federal or private student loans.

How to refinance medical school loans

1. Confirm that refinancing is right for you. Before refinancing federal student loans, triple-check that you are comfortable giving up federal loan benefits including access to Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans. If you have a mix of federal and private student loans and want to maintain access to those programs, refinance just the private loans.

2. Check if you qualify. You generally need a credit score that’s at least in the high 600s to qualify for student loan refinancing. The higher your score, the lower the rate you’ll likely get. Some lenders have pre-qualification processes that allow you to see a personalized rate before you officially apply — they’ll do a soft credit pull, which won’t hurt your credit score, to determine your rate.

3. Shop around and apply. Get rate estimates from multiple lenders and choose the one that offers you the lowest rate.

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