Tag Archive for: interest rates

For undergraduates and graduates considering student loans to help pay for their education, finding a low interest rate loan is important. Understanding how rates are set and how they potentially change over time can help you decide which loan is best for you. Let’s take a closer look at what determines the interest rate on various types of loans.

Direct Loans

The largest student loan program in the United States is the Direct Loan Program and is offered directly through the federal government. The formulas for setting interest rates for the Direct Loan Program are determined by Congress. Currently, the interest rate is set as a fixed rate for all loans first disbursed on or after July 1 and by June 30 of the following year. So, any loan first disbursed during that one-year window will have the same interest rate for the life of that loan.

The interest rate is the index plus an add-on or margin. In the case of federal loans, the financial index used is the 10-year Treasury note auctioned at the final auction held prior to June 1. That index is then used for new loans first disbursed in that following July 1 – June 30 timeframe.

The following chart represents the interest rate calculations for federal Direct Loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2017 and before July 1, 2018.

Borrower TypeIndex (10-Year Treasury Note)Add-On (margin)Fixed Interest Rate
Direct Subsidized LoansUndergraduate Students2.40%2.05%4.45%
Direct Unsubsidized LoansUndergraduate Students2.40%2.05%4.45%
Direct Unsubsidized LoansGraduate/Professional Students2.40%3.60%6.00%
Direct PLUSGraduate/Professional Students and Parents of Dependent Undergraduate Students2.40%4.60%7.00%

Private Loans

For private student loans, the interest rates will still be based off of a financial index (although the exact index may vary by lender) plus a margin. However, other factors will also go into determining the interest rate on private student loans. The borrower’s credit score (or cosigner’s credit score) is a determining factor in the interest rate assigned to a private student loan. A high credit score may translate to a low interest rate. Another factor that can determine the interest rate on a private student loan is the length of the repayment term. Typically, a longer repayment term means paying a higher interest rate.

Fixed Interest Rates

Private student loan lenders will usually set their fixed interest rates prior to July 1 for the upcoming school year. That fixed rate will remain constant for the life of the loan. Lenders may adjust their fixed interest rates each year for new loans or even during the year if there is a dramatic change in market conditions.

However, once you’ve received your loan, your fixed interest rate for that specific loan will remain the same until the loan is paid in full. Your monthly payment will also remain constant for the duration of your repayment term.

Variable Interest Rates

When private student loan lenders set their variable interest rates, they may use a different financial index. Some lenders will use the 1-month LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) where the variable interest rate will fluctuate monthly based on changes (up or down) in the 1-month LIBOR. Other lenders may use the 3-month LIBOR and adjust their variable interest rates quarterly (every three months).

Finally, other lenders may use the Prime Rate as their index and adjust their variable rates monthly. The bottom line is that your variable interest rate will likely change each month or quarter and your monthly payment will also go up or down based on your rate increasing or decreasing.

So, is any particular type of index better than another when evaluating interest rates from different lenders? You really need to know what the index rate is as well as the margin being added. For example, if you see an offer for an interest rate of “Prime + 1.5%” that might sound pretty good compared to an interest rate of “1-month LIBOR + 4.50%.”

Visually, it just looks like the first rate would be lower. However, if the Prime Rate is 4% and the 1-month LIBOR rate is 1%, both rates would equal 5.50%. It’s always a good idea to look for a lender’s Application and Solicitation Disclosure to see the true interest rate calculations.

For more information on student loan options and other helpful resources, please visit U-fi.com.

You’ve finished off the leftover turkey and dressing and have shifted gears into holiday shopping mode. As another year comes to a close, it’s a good time to look back on how your budget planning went this past year.

After an assessment, you can begin to find ways to improve your financial well-being in the upcoming year. In order to be prepared for a bright financial future in the New Year, it’s important to set your budget, contribute to your savings, and pay down any high interest debt.

Now is the Time for Budget Planning

Do you know how much you spent this year on utilities, groceries, housing, or entertainment? Once you have an idea of how much you’re spending on certain categories, you can estimate your projected expenses each month and use budget planning to find places to cut expenses.

There are a number of apps that can assist you with tracking and categorizing your spending, but you can also do it on your own by entering your expenses into a spreadsheet. If you use your debit card for most purchases, you can use your online bank statement to help you identify your expenses. Don’t forget to account for the cash you spend if you want a true picture of all your expenses.

When setting your budget, you’ll likely have fixed and recurring expenses for housing, transportation, student loans, utilities, and other similar areas. Then, you’ll need to set an amount for variable expenses like groceries, clothing, and entertainment.

Knowing your income each month will help you set goals. If you have a steady job, you probably have a consistent weekly or monthly income and can use that to start your budget. Your monthly expenses should be less than your available income each month.

If this is not the case, you can review your expenses to identify areas to trim back and reduce your spending each month. Once you’ve created a budget, try to stick to it as best you can each month. That way, you’ll stay on track and not get into a position of having to use credit cards or possibly getting behind on some of your bills.

Save, Save, Save—The Sooner You Start the Better

Even if you’re in your 20’s, it’s never too early to include retirement in your budget planning. If you start with small contributions, you can make it a habit and priority. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan and matches your contributions, take full advantage of the opportunity for free money.

It’s also important to set aside funds for unexpected expenses or emergencies. A good rule of thumb is to have three to six months of income in a savings account that you can access for those unplanned events. Not only will this give you peace of mind knowing that you have your own safety net, but it will help you avoid putting large charges on a credit card that will likely incur high interest fees.

Pay Down High Interest Rate Debt

Whether you’re paying off a student loan, a car, or a credit card balance, it’s always an accomplishment to know you have extra income to go toward something else (like saving).

If you can allocate some extra resources to pay down your debt, it’s generally best to start by tackling the account with the highest interest rate. That might be a credit card balance that seems like it never gets smaller because of the interest that keeps adding up each month.

Another goal you might have is to simply pay something off with a smaller balance just to get that sense of accomplishment and then move that money toward paying down other debt. It might make sense to look at debt consolidation or refinancing where you may benefit from paying off higher rate loans or debt with a lower interest rate personal loan. This is especially helpful with high rate credit cards. See our article on using personal loans to cure those post-holiday credit card blues. You can find other helpful articles and resources at U-fi.com. All of us at U-fi wish you a successful and prosperous new year!

If you have student loan debt, you have most likely heard the terms “student loan consolidation” and “student loan refinancing”. Although they sound similar and are often used interchangeably, they are actually two different programs. Therefore, understanding these programs and their key differences can help you make better student loan repayment decisions.

Student Loan Consolidation

Student loan consolidation lets you combine one or more eligible federal student loans into one new Direct Consolidation Loan. As a result, the U.S. Department of Education becomes the new lender. As the administrator of the program, they use companies such as Nelnet to originate and service the loans.

Student Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is offered by private (non-federal) lenders to allow student loan borrowers to refinance one or more federal and/or private student loans into a new private student loan. Consequently, the lender of the new private student loan will be a bank, credit union, or other financial institution. Either the lender themselves or entities like Firstmark Services, a division of Nelnet, handles origination and servicing.

Which is Better?

Both programs offer many benefits. These benefits include simplifying your monthly student loan payments, locking in a fixed interest rate, and lowering your monthly payments. However, there may be some drawbacks as well. For example, if you extend your repayment term, you could increase the total cost of your loans. Therefore, you may forfeit current and potential future federal student loan benefits. Also, any incentives attached to your current loans, such as interest rate reductions for automatic payments, are lost.

Comparing Options

The table below provides a side-by-side comparison of several important features of student loan consolidation and student loan refinancing.

Student Loan ConsolidationStudent Loan Refinancing*
LenderU.S. Department of EducationBanks, Credit Unions, and Financial Institutions
Credit Check RequiredNoYes
Upfront FeesNoneMost lenders do not charge any upfront fees
Interest Rate TypeFixedFixed and variable rate options are offered by most lenders
Interest RateWeighted average interest rate of the loans being consolidated, rounded up to nearest one-eighth of 1%Varies. Factors may include the borrower’s and/or cosigner’s credit history; repayment term; interest rate type; highest level of education; and current market conditions
Repayment PlansStandard, Graduated, Extended, and various Income-Driven Repayment plansStandard Repayment
Repayment Term10 to 30 years depending on the amount being consolidated5 to 20 years
Allowable LoansMost federal student loans are eligible. Private loans are not eligibleFederal and private student loans are allowed by most lenders
Interest Rate ReductionRate reduction for automatic paymentsRate reduction for automatic payments. Some lenders offer an additional rate reduction to existing customers with a qualifying account
Ability to consolidate or refinance multiple timesGenerally no, unless additional federal loans are includedYes
Loss of Federal BenefitsSome benefits may be lostYes, including potentially qualifying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness on federal loans
When can you consolidate or refinanceAfter graduation, leaving school, or dropping below half-time enrollmentAfter graduation, leaving school, or dropping below half-time enrollment. Some lenders allow refinancing while in school

* Features represent those of the largest and/or most common private student loan refinancing programs. A specific lender’s features may differ, so be sure to read the program details carefully.

Choose the Right Option for You

While there are similarities between student loan consolidation and student loan refinancing, they are different programs with unique features. Firstly, if you are interested in consolidating or refinancing your current student loans,determine what you want to accomplish. Your goal may be to lower your monthly payments, lock in a low fixed interest rate, and/or lower your overall cost of repaying your loans. Next, compare the federal government’s Direct Consolidation Loan program to U-fi and other private lender programs once your goal has been set. Then, decide if consolidation or refinancing is right for you based on your financial goals and circumstances.

Want to reduce your monthly payments? Learn how to make it happen with U-fi.

With the numerous private student loan repayment options available, selecting the right one can seem a bit overwhelming. However, with a little bit of knowledge, you can make a more educated decision. In Part I of this article, we covered repayment plan options. Now, we’ll review interest rate types and repayment terms to find the best student loan option for you.

Interest Rate Type

Borrowers taking out private student loans or refinancing their current student loans have a few interest rate options.

  • Variable: Variable rate loans have an interest rate that can fluctuate over time as the rate index, such as the Prime Rate or LIBOR, goes up or down. Variable rate loans typically come with lower starting interest rates than comparable fixed rate loans. However, they come with greater risk, since rates may rise in the future. Most variable rate loans have a cap that places a limit on how high the rate can rise.
  • Fixed: With a fixed rate loan, once the rate is set, it does not change for the entire repayment period. Fixed rate loans normally have higher starting rates than variable rate loans. This is because the lender takes on the risk of interest rates fluctuating over time.
  • Hybrid: Another less popular option is a hybrid rate loan. With a hybrid rate loan, the interest rate is usually fixed for a period of time. It then switches to a variable rate for the remainder of the loan period.

Tip: If you intend to pay off your loans in a short period of time, consider a variable rate loan. If you plan to take longer to pay off your loans or prefer stable, predictable payments, a fixed-rate loan may be the best choice. When deciding which type of rate to choose, use the lender’s loan repayment calculator to estimate the savings between a variable rate and a fixed rate loan. Also decide whether the estimated savings is worth the additional risk of a variable rate loan.

Repayment Term

Another important item that determines the interest rate you will be charged is the repayment term you select. Most lenders offer private student loans and refinance loans with repayment terms between 5 and 15 years. Some lenders offer repayment terms as long as 20 years.

When determining interest rates on private student loans, remember that the shorter the repayment term, the lower the interest rate. This is because the lender takes on additional risk by allowing you to repay your loan over a longer term.

Tip: Your monthly payment amount is determined by several factors. These include the principal balance of the loan when you start making payments, the interest rate, and the repayment term. Shorter repayment terms come with lower interest rates, but higher monthly payments. Choose a repayment term with a monthly payment you can afford, especially when you are first starting out.

Choosing Your Best Option

Choosing the repayment option that best fits your current and future needs can be a bit tricky. But, with a little planning and thought, you can zero in on the loan terms that are best for you. If you find your financial situation changes down the road, and your current repayment terms no longer meet your needs, you may be able to work with your lender to modify your repayment terms. If that isn’t an option, then you can look at refinancing your student loans and replace them with a new loan that is a better fit.

Tip: Most private student loans do not have any pre-payment penalties or fees. If down the road you can afford to pay more than the minimum each month, you can pay down your loan faster without being charged any pre-payment fees. This reduces your overall cost of borrowing in the end.

Understanding the nuances of private student loans can make a big difference when deciding which one is right for you. Making the right choices when taking out student loans can have a strong impact on positioning yourself for a bright financial future.

If you borrowed student loans to help pay for college, you may not be required to make any payments until after you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment. That sounds like a pretty good deal; no payments and no worries while you focus on your studies. But remember, if you take out a federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, a federal Direct PLUS Loan, or a private loan, interest accumulates during those months (or years) you’re in school and not making any payments. Here are some ways you can save on your student loans while you’re still in school.

Accruing Interest

Interest that accrues on your student loan will typically be capitalized when you begin repayment. That means any accrued interest during those months you are not making payments is added to the original principal amount of your loan. For instance, if you borrowed a $15,000 student loan with an interest rate of 6% as a freshman and made no payments for the four years you were in school, plus your grace period, 51 months would have passed. In this scenario, when you begin your repayment period, you would actually have a balance of $18,825 when you start repaying your loan 51 months later. That’s because $3,825 in interest (also known as capitalized interest) would have accrued during those 51 months and was added to your original loan amount.

In-School Payments Can Help

Now, let’s say you have a part-time job while you’re in school, working 15-20 hours a week to help with some of your expenses. If you could simply pay around $75 a month toward that $15,000 student loan, you could actually pay all the accruing interest (remember, that’s $3,825 total that would have been added to your loan when your first scheduled monthly payment is due). If you’re able to pay $75 towards your student loan’s accruing interest, the total cost you could ultimately save over the life of a 10-year repayment period would be nearly $1,300.

Example

Paying Interest While In School (No Capitalized Interest)Fully Deferred Payments While In School – No Payments (Capitalized Interest)
Original Loan Amount$15,000$15,000
Interest Accrued During In School and Grace Period (51 months)$3,825$3,825
Interest Paid During In-School and Grace Period$3,825$0
Loan Amount When Entering Repayment$15,000$18,825
Number of Months of Repayment120120
Monthly Payment$166.53$209
Total Interest Paid on Loan (including any payments during in school and grace period)$8,808.60$10,080
Total Paid on Student Loan (original loan amount plus interest)$23,808.60$25,080

As you can see from this example, making interest payments while you’re in school and during your grace period can help you save on your student loans down the road. Plus, making payments during your in-school and grace period also gets you in the habit of making payments on your student loan and better prepares you for successful repayment. Remember, this is just an example of borrowing one loan during your freshman year of college. Imagine what the capitalized interest could look like if you borrow each year of college, or what your savings would be by making continued interest payments while you’re in school. You can learn more ways to save on your student loans and get additional helpful information by visiting our student loan resources.

Taking out private student loans or refinancing current student loans is a popular option for students. When considering loans or loan refinance, many borrowers initially focus on either the interest rate of the loan or how much their monthly payments will be. This makes sense because they determine how much a borrower pays back over the life of a loan. However, the interest rate and expected monthly payments are determined by several factors. These factors include credit history, current financial situation, future earnings potential, lender costs and desired profit margin, and selected loan repayment options.

Let’s take a look at the repayment options available. Knowing your options can help you when deciding to take out a student loan or to refinance your existing loans.

Repayment Plans

When it comes to private student loans and student loan refinancing, lenders may offer more than one repayment plan. Below are the most common plans you will encounter:

Standard

Standard repayment is far and away the most common repayment plan for private student loans. In Standard repayment, your monthly payments are a set amount. That means you pay off your loan in equal installments over the remaining term of the loan.

Interest Only

With an Interest Only repayment plan, you begin making interest-only payments over a short period of time. Later, you revert to Standard repayment. With interest-only plans, you pay more in interest than with a Standard repayment plan.  Also, your monthly payments are higher than a Standard repayment plan when your loan reverts to full principal and interest payments.

Partial

With a Partial repayment plan, your initial payment amount is set for a period of time. It then reverts to Standard repayment for the remainder of the loan term. The total cost of a Partial repayment plan will also be higher than with a Standard repayment plan.

Deferred

Deferred repayment is when you start making payments at a specified time in the future. Most lenders let you defer payments while you are in school and for six months after you leave school. Deferred repayment is the most costly, since interest accrues while you are deferring your payments. That interest is then added to the principal balance of your loan before you enter your repayment period.

Graduated

While not very common for private student loans, Graduated repayment starts with lower monthly payments that increase over time. With Graduated repayment, you pay more for the loan than with Standard repayment. This is because interest accrues on a higher principal balance over a longer term.

Tip: When lenders offer a choice of repayment plans, they generally charge lower interest rates for Standard and Interest Only repayment. They charge a higher interest rate for Deferred repayment to compensate for the added risk. Choosing to make full principal and interest payments under a Standard repayment plan is the least costly repayment plan available. If you cannot afford to make full principal and interest payments, consider paying at least some amount each month. Whether you make interest-only payments or partial payments, it reduces your overall cost of borrowing.

By exploring your repayment plan options or considering loan refinance, you can find the best option for your financial situation. Whether you choose  In Part II of Choosing Your Private Student Loan Repayment Options, we’ll discuss interest rates and repayment terms. These also affect your total amount paid.

When it comes to student loans, you’ve likely heard the terms consolidation or refinance. You may have thought they mean the same thing. While they’re similar, they are actually two different options for combining your student loans.

Student Loan Consolidation

Direct Loan consolidation is a program offered by the Federal government. This program allows you to combine all of your federal student loans into a single loan. The interest rate for your consolidation loan is a weighted average of all the loans you are consolidating. It is not based on credit, like student loan refinancing. You can also switch your variable interest rate loans to fixed interest rates to avoid paying more interest if variable rates rise. Typically, student loan consolidation doesn’t save you money, but it simplifies your payments into a single monthly payment. You also get to keep your federal student loan benefits, such as income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness.

Student Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is a program offered by private lenders. This program combines your federal and private student loans into a new loan with a new term and interest rate. The interest rate of the loan is based on creditworthiness, unlike student loan consolidation. With student loan refinancing, you can pick a term that fits your financial needs and may save you money. However, extending the term of any loan to lower monthly payments means paying more interest in the end. Many lenders offer borrower benefits with student loan refinancing, such as interest rate reductions for auto-debit payments and cosigner release. Keep in mind, if you refinance federal student loans, you no longer have the federal benefits associated with those loans. Find out if student loan refinancing is for you by asking yourself these 6 questions.

Student loan consolidation or refinance can simplify your student loans into one monthly payment. Just remember there are additional unique benefits to both options. Weigh the benefits of each program to decide the right option for your situation. As with any loan, make sure you fully understand all the terms and conditions.

If you’re getting your first student loan or credit card, you’re likely seeing some terms you don’t recognize. A key component of being an informed consumer is understanding all those financial terms. You’ve probably heard an announcer at the end of a TV commercial speed-reading through a bunch of legal terms. We’re going to slow it down and lay out the most important terms you need to know.

Accrue

This is the act of interest accumulating on your principle balance.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

APR is a more accurate reflection of the total annual loan cost. It includes the actual interest rate, plus any other incurred charges or fees (such as upfront origination fees). You can find more information about interest rates and APRs on our website.

Capitalization

Capitalization means adding unpaid accrued interest to the principal balance of a loan. This increases the amount of your monthly payments and the total amount repaid over the life of the loan. You can choose to pay the interest as it accrues to reduce or completely avoid the cost of capitalization. The more frequently interest capitalizes, the more you wind up paying.

Cosigner

A cosigner or co-borrower is an individual who signs the loan promissory note with you. They are equally responsible for repaying the debt. Having a cosigner can often help you qualify for a better interest rate. This is especially true if you don’t have established credit or sufficient income. This article further outlines the potential benefits of having a cosigner.

Compound Interest

Compound interest is interest calculated on the principal loan amount, plus any interest accrued during previous periods. For example, if interest is compounded monthly, you would then pay interest on the interest that accrued in the previous month, as well as the outstanding principal. Compound interest can drive up your total cost of paying off debt.

Credit Bureau

A credit bureau is an agency that collects personal and financial information from various sources about consumers. The agency retains information about the types and amounts of credit you have obtained as well as your timeliness in making payments. Your credit card companies and the various lenders which have made loans to you report this information to the agency.

Credit Score

A credit score is a number, generally between 300 and 850, provided in a credit report and used by a lender as a predictive indicator of your likelihood to repay a loan. The credit score may be used by the lender to determine eligibility and set the terms of a loan, such as the interest rate and fees. The higher the credit score, the better. Higher scores will generally allow you to receive better interest rates. Check out our article on understanding your credit report for more detailed information.

Default

The failure of a borrower to repay a loan according to the terms of the promissory note is a default. For federal student loans, default occurs at 270 days delinquent and has a negative effect on your credit score.

Delinquency

Failure to make payments when they are due is referred to as delinquency. Delinquency begins with the first missed payment. Missed payments or delinquent payments will negatively impact your credit score, so make sure you stay current on all payments.

Finance Charge

The total amount of interest that will be paid over the life of a loan when the loan is repaid according to the payment schedule is the finance charge.

Fixed Interest Rate

A fixed interest rate is an interest rate that remains the same for the duration of the loan or credit obligation.

Interest

This is an amount, calculated as a percentage of the principal loan amount, that lenders charge for borrowed money.

Interest Rate

The interest rate is the rate at which interest is calculated on your loans or credit card balance.

Minimum Monthly Payment

The smallest monthly payment amount that can be made in order for a loan account to remain in a current repayment status is the minimum monthly payment. For a credit card bill, you’ll find that paying more than the minimum monthly payment will help you pay your balance faster and likely help you avoid potential rate increases on your credit card.

Origination Fee

The fee you pay and deduct from the principal of a loan prior to disbursement is the origination fee. For federal loans, you pay this fee to the federal government to offset the cost of your interest subsidy. For private loan programs, you pay the origination fee to the lender to cover the cost of administering and insuring the program.

Promissory Note

The promissory note is the binding legal document you sign for a loan, which lists the terms and conditions of the loan as well as your rights and responsibilities. For federal student loans, another name for the promissory note is the Master Promissory Note (MPN).

Simple Interest

Simple interest is interest only calculated based on the principal amount of the loan.

Truth in Lending Disclosure

This disclosure is a statement lenders provide to you prior to or at the time of disbursement of a private loan that lists the lender name and contact information, amount financed, annual percentage rate (APR), finance charge, payment amount and schedule, and total repayment amount.

Variable Interest Rate

The rate of interest charged on a loan changes periodically (monthly, quarterly, or annually) and fluctuates with a stated base index (such as the Prime Rate or a LIBOR index) is a variable interest rate. The variable interest rate fluctuates as the base index changes. So, your monthly payment amounts will increase or decrease depending on if interest rates rise or fall.

Now you have a basic understanding of some of the common financial terms and how they impact you as a consumer. Remember, always make sure that you understand all of the terms and conditions when you take out student loans, open a new credit card account, or take on a new loan of any kind. Reputable companies will be happy to answer any questions you have so that you have a clear understanding of your financial obligations.

If you have received your financial aid award and still need money for college, private loans may be worth considering. Banks, credit unions, and other lending organizations offer private loans.

First Steps for Private Loans

You take out private loans in your own name. They often require you to apply with a qualified cosigner who has an established credit history. Even if you don’t need a cosigner, using one may still help you obtain a better interest rate. Lenders provide the best rates to borrowers and cosigners with the strongest credit qualifications.

As a general rule, private loans should be the last financial aid option. Always file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) first, and accept any grants, scholarships, work-study and federal loans offered by your school before taking out a private loan. Federal loans offer more repayment options, income-based programs, and in some cases, loan forgiveness alternatives.

If you decide a private loan is right for you, consider these things when selecting a program.

1. Check to see if your college has a recommended lender list.

Some schools investigate private loan programs and providers on behalf of their students. They provide lists of those they think would best meet their students’ needs. If your school has a list, you can begin there. Your school generally posts school lender lists on their financial aid website. In many cases, the website links you to a third party where your school provided a list of programs. In either case, loan programs are usually listed by feature, so you can compare to see which might best meet your needs. If your school does not have a lender list, you can investigate Credible or other websites which will provide loan program options and help you compare features.

2. Decide which features are the most important to you.

  • Rates – In comparing interest rates, you will see some lenders use an index called London Interbank Offered Rates (LIBOR), and others use the Prime Rate index. Since they aren’t the same, look at the loan programs’ Annual Percentage Rates (APRs). The lowest and highest APR ranges are be displayed. If APRs aren’t listed, be aware that the Prime Rate is typically two to three points higher than LIBOR. The most current rates can be located in the Federal Reserve’s Statistical Release.
  • Fees – Most private loan lenders offer zero application and origination fees. Check all loan programs you are considering to make sure this is true and to determine if there are other fees associated with the loan.
  • Repayment plans and terms – Would you prefer in-school interest payments to keep your costs down? Perhaps multiple repayment period choices like a 5, 10, or a 15 year period are best for you. With private loans, you choose your repayment period at the time you take out your loan. You may also want to check to see if there are deferment or forbearance options if you run into difficulty in repayment.
  • Cosigner release – Your cosigner is responsible for making payments if you do not. The cosigner’s credit report reflects any late or missed payments as well. When investigating options, determine if the program offers a cosigner release, how many payments you will need to make before that is possible, and how involved the release process is.
  • Borrower benefits – Lenders offer a variety of benefits like interest discounts for auto-debit payments, cash back for achieving certain grades, or interest reductions after a specific number of on-time payments. Be sure you determine which are the most important to you and take the required action to meet the requirements.

3. Understand the difference between fixed and variable rates.

As you compare differences between programs, interest rates may be a primary factor. You will need to decide between fixed rates, which may be higher at first but remain the same throughout the life of your loan, or variable rates which may be lower at first but change periodically based on fluctuations in the economy. For more information about the factors to consider before making this decision, go to U-fi’s frequently asked questions.

4. Your rate is the one that matters most.

Lenders may advertise low rates when they share their program’s interest ranges, and many students assume they will receive the lowest rates. See if lenders allow you to use a calculator. If you can enter general information about you and your cosigner, you may be able to obtain a preview of what your interest rate will be before completing the application process and providing authorization for your credit to be pulled.

Private loans can provide a solid financial option for students who need help bridging the gap between financial aid and college costs. Be sure to first research programs fully and understand your responsibilities before taking out any type of education loan. If you have questions, your college financial aid office is the best source of information and guidance about your individual situation.

Thinking about applying for a new private student loan, or refinancing your existing federal and private student loans? Expect the lender to check your credit history and credit score. They do this to ensure you are not a credit risk. You can proactively take steps to improve your credit health and raise your credit score. Start with understanding what’s in your credit report, and what student loan lenders are looking for.

What is Credit?

Have you ever taken out a student loan or credit card? If so, you entered into an agreement to receive funds that must be paid back later. Unlike credit cards, student loans are repaid in installments over a set number of payments. This term is usually 5 to 25 years.

When you take out a student loan, most lenders or servicers notify at least one of the three major credit reporting agencies. These are Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. They do this so they can include the new account on your credit report as a trade line. Each trade line contains detailed information. This information includes account name and number, loan type, date opened, original and current balance, payment status, and monthly payment.

The lender or servicer notifies the credit agencies of all loan activity. This activity includes payment date, amount of payment applied to principal and interest, and timeliness of payments. The credit agency records this information, which makes up part of your credit history.

Understanding Your Credit Report

While each credit reporting agency’s reporting format may be slightly different, they essentially include the same information:

  • Personal Information, such as your name, address (current and previous), Social Security number, date of birth, and other information that identifies who you are.
  • Credit History, including your open and closed accounts, original loan amounts, current balances, and payment history.
  • Public Records, such as delinquent accounts, liens, and bankruptcies. Public records can remain on your credit report for many years, which will affect your ability to obtain future credit.
  • Credit Inquires, which are placed on your credit report when you request credit. Credit inquires remain on your file for two years.

Tip: Federal law entitles you to a free copy of your credit report each year from all three credit reporting agencies. Take advantage of this and check your report from each credit bureau annually. This ensures your personal information is accurate and up to date. To get a free credit report, visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-FACTACT. If something on your report looks inaccurate, be sure to contact the credit agency immediately to have it addressed. Unfortunately the credit reports will not include your credit score.

What Student Loan Lenders Look For When Checking Your Credit

When making a credit decision, private student loan lenders check your credit report and credit score. They do this to determine whether you are an acceptable risk, and what interest rate they should charge you. If you have a cosigner, lender check their credit report and credit score too.  Most lenders, like U-fi, will want to see an adequate credit history, a track record of making on-time payments, how much debt you have outstanding, and a good credit score. Lenders also ask how much income you have to determine whether you, or your cosigner, have enough monthly income to make monthly payments.

To increase your chances of being approved and receiving a low interest rate for a new student loan or a student refinance loan, you and/or your cosigner will want to have at least two open trade lines, be no more than 30 days past due on more than one account, and have no public records for the past five years. Most lenders will also want to see a good credit score. While each lender is different, if you have a credit score above 700, you will generally be considered a good credit risk.

Tip: When shopping for a private student loan or student refinance loan you should complete all your applications within a short window (e.g. 30 days), since multiple credit inquires within a brief time period will have little impact on your credit score.

How Does Your Credit History Affect Your Credit Score?

Your credit score is a number that summarizes your credit risk at any moment in time. While there are several types of credit scores, 90% of lending decisions use a FICO score. Fair Isaac Corporation creates the FICO score. FICO scores range from a low of 300 to a high of 850, with higher being better. FICO scores are made up of the following:

  • 35%: Payment History – have you made your past payments on time?
  • 30%: Amount Owed – how much debt do you owe and how much of your available credit has been used?
  • 15%: Length of Credit History – how long have you been using credit?
  • 10%: New Credit – how much of your debt has been opened recently?
  • 10%: Types of Credit Used – do you have different types of credit such as credit cards, installment loans, and mortgages?

Tip: FICO scores can change from month to month due to several factors. Not having too much debt, and making full payments on time, over a long period gives lenders more confidence you will repay them. That increases the likelihood they will extend you credit at a lower interest rate.

Understanding what’s on your credit report and how it impacts your ability to get a good credit rate is extremely important. If you notice something incorrect on your credit report, call the credit agency immediately. Work with them to correct any problems. A better credit history and higher credit score means a better shot at approval and a low interest rate. Your credit could save you a lot of money on your student loans. It can also ensure additional credit is there for you when you need it most.