What if I told you that in just a little over two weeks, you could be on your way to saving almost $20,000 on your student loans? You might think I was delusional.
But I’m not. Refinancing to a lower interest rate can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your student loan. In fact, many people are able to save between $15,000 and $20,000.
Because taking any big financial action can be daunting, we put together an easy-to-follow 15-day plan for refinancing your student loans with a private lender.
Why 15 days?
Your credit score is a key component of your loan application, so minimizing the impact of credit inquiries on your score is important.
By limiting your search to 15 days, you’ll keep your credit score from dropping because of sporadic inquiries — that is, the credit bureaus will assume you're comparison shopping rather than seeking credit out of financial need.
Let’s get started.
Day 1: Calculate how much you might save
First things first: let's see if refinancing is going to be worth your time.
Use our Student Loan Refinancing Calculator to see how much money you might be able to save through refinancing. Write that number down on a post-it note and stick it to your computer. Use it as motivation when you’re deciding whether to research lenders or open Netflix.
Days 2-4: Collect your information
As with any new loan, you'll need to submit some documentation before you get approved.
Here’s what you need to collect:
- proof of income (pay stubs or, if you’re not yet employed, a job-offer letter)
- proof of citizenship (social security or other government identification number)
- valid ID (driver’s license or passport)
- billing statements for all loans you’re planning to refinance
- proof of monthly housing payments
- address verification (utility bill or lease)
Day 5-7: Check your credit report and dispute errors
Your credit score is a huge determining factor in getting a better interest rate.
Because your credit score is based on information found in your credit report, checking the report is the best way to understand how to improve your score.
You can check your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com — and there’s no hit to your credit when you do that. If you see anything unexpected, contact the credit reporting company immediately to report the inaccuracy.
If you have a lot of negative activity on your report, don’t despair. You can still refinance — but you'll need to apply with a cosigner, or spend some time improving your credit.
Days 8-11: Research lenders
You can choose from dozens of private lenders when you’re deciding to refinance your student loans. That means you have plenty of options, but the process could be a little overwhelming.
So how can you keep it organized?
Create a spreadsheet with the criteria that are most important to you — minimum loan balance, repayment term options, interest rates, or special benefits (like unemployment protection or discounts for automatic payments).
Then research each lender’s offerings and compare them against each other. If you’re having trouble getting started, we’ve provided a list of several credible lenders with great reputations in student loan refinancing.
Day 12: Get lender quotes
While differences in terms and perks will have a bearing on your decision, the biggest factor in your choice will likely be the interest rate.
Lenders generally have a quote option right on their home page. For most lenders, you can fill out just a bit of information and get a rough estimate of your interest rate and payment options. To save time, get quotes from several leading lenders at once on our best refinance companies page, with links that will take you right to the lenders you’re interested in.
Each time you request a quote, you’re authorizing the lender to do what’s called a “soft” credit pull, meaning it doesn’t have an impact on your credit score.
Day 14: Fill out the applications
Once you get your quotes, you’re ready to apply.
We recommend applying to at least three lenders so that you can be sure you’re getting the best rate and terms for your situation. Now that you have a spreadsheet with criteria comparisons, as well as quoted rates, choosing your top three will probably be relatively straightforward.
Head to their websites and fill out the online application using the documentation you gathered earlier. You can probably fill out all three applications in less than an hour.
Day 15: Relax and mark your calendar
You did it! Sit down with a good book or your favorite TV show and congratulate yourself for taking an important step toward your financial freedom.
Set a calendar reminder to check back on your application status in about a week. If you're approved for a loan, you can expect to start saving money about three weeks after you accept the loan offer.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Continue paying on your existing loans until you're certain that the new loan has wiped them out! Otherwise, you could get dinged for a late payment.
Now that you have a straightforward plan, there’s nothing holding you back from refinancing your student loans. Start today, and get ready to enjoy those savings.