Your 15-Day Plan to Save $20K on Your Student Loans (Yes, Really)

Katie Taylor Updated on May 14, 2019

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. 

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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. 

See also: Quiz: Do You Need a Cosigner to Refinance Your Student Loans?

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.

Imagine Life Without a Student Loan Payment... Start Saving Now!

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. 

Published in: Refinance

About the Author
Katie Taylor

Katie Taylor is a content writer and editor with expertise in law and policy, finance, and entrepreneurship. She writes for startups and small businesses about everything from bookkeeping to telecom. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post and SheKnows.com. She is continuing to pay off law school loans and lives in Richmond, Vermont with her wife, son, and an unruly dog. Read more by Katie Taylor

Refinance and Save Today With These Lenders

#1 - Comet Recommended View More Details

Earnest empowers people with the financial captial they need to live better lives.

  • APR: 2.41% - 7.82%
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Refinance up to $500K
View More Details
Visit Earnest View Loan Disclosure

Using technology, data, and design to build affordable products, Earnest's lending products are built for a new generation seeking to reach life's milestones. The company understands every applicant's unique financial story to offer the lowest possible rates and radically flexible loan options for living life.

  • Commitment-free 2 minute rate check
  • Client Happiness can be reached via in app messaging, email, and phone 
  • No fees for origination, prepayment, or loan disbursement
  • Flexible terms let you pick your exact monthly payment or switch between fixed and variable rates
  • Skip a payment and make it up later
  • Online dashboard is designed to make it easy to apply for and manage your loan

Click here to apply with Earnest and to see how much you can save.

#2 View More Details

Many ELFI customers save hundreds per month month and thousands over the length of the loan term.

  • APR: 2.80% - 6.69%
  • Minimum credit score: 680
  • No refinancing maximum amount
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Visit ElFi View Loan Disclosure

Education Loan Finance is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating outstanding education loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your costs of education and/or makes repayment very simple. Education Loan Finance - backed by the strength of SouthEast Bank - combines the benefits of traditional education loan refinancing with the superior products, service, and support found in the private market.

Education Loan Finance (ElFi) review

Check out their low rates today to see how much you can save.

  • Get Your Rate. With Education Loan Finance's Find My Rate tool, you can complete a short application to receive a preliminary quote on your eligible rates and terms, all without affecting your credit score.
  • Apply in Minutes. Education Loan Finance's online application is fast and simple.
  • Outstanding Personalized Service. Our Personalized Loan Advisors specialize in student loan refinancing and help busy professionals find the option that's right for them.
  • Student Lending Experience: Education Loan Finance isn't a start-up company - we have a longstanding history and expertise in serving student loan borrowers.

Attractive Bonus and Referral Programs:

  • Education Loan Finance Fast Track Bonus**: Education Loan Finance's application process is streamlined and simple, and you can earn a $200 bonus just for closing your loan within 30 days of your initial application.
  • Education Loan Finance Referral Program**: Earn $400 for each new Education Loan Finance Client referred by you!
#3 View More Details

Works with 275+ not-for-profit community lenders for higher approval chances

  • APR: 2.38% - 7.50%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $300K
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Visit LendKey View Loan Disclosure

LendKey operates student loan programs for over 275 not-for-profit and community lenders across the country. By partnering with these lenders, LendKey is able to give consumers direct access to the best rates available from the most borrower friendly institutions. As the servicer of all loans obtained through its platform, you can rest easy knowing your personal information will be safe and that the best customer service team will be ready to answer your questions from application until your final payment.

LendKey Student Loan Refinance review

  • Lightning fast rate check - 2-minute rate check with no impact on your credit score
  • More lenders, more options - see the best offers from over 275 not-for-profit and community lenders for higher approval chances
  • Life of loan relationship - With LendKey, your personal information will never be sent or passed on to third parties. Their customer service team is with you from the moment you land on their website until you've completely repaid your loan.
  • Unmatched benefits- Community lenders put people over profits and offer unique benefits like cosigner release after 12 on-time payments, interest only repayment options to keep monthly payments low, the largest unemployment protection period in the market, and more.

Get a personalized quote from LendKey now.

#4 View More Details

Operates in all 50 states; 2nd largest student loan refinancing lender

  • APR: 2.43% - 7.02%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • No refinancing amount maximum
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Visit Laurel Road View Loan Disclosure

Laurel Road is a national online lender with customers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Many of our non-bank competitors are not able to lend in all 50 states.Laurel Road has grown to be the second largest player in the student loan refinancing space in large part because of our reputation as the go-to low rate provider.

Laurel Road Student Loan Refinance Review

  • National reach - Online lender that is available in all 50 US states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
  • No fees & the lowest rates in the space - Laurel Road is the most transparent about the rates they provide customers, and offer the lowest rates where it counts. Our customers will save more than $20,000 over the life of their loans on average. 
  • Customer service reputation - Laurel Road's customer service representatives are no rookies. With 19 years of experience on average, Laurel Road’s Customer Service team delivers an experience that is best in the industry. They work to build meaningful, life-long relationships with our valued customers to improve their overall financial wellness.
  • The stability & security of a bank - They are a division of Darien Rowayton Bank, a stable and secure FDIC-insured bank, regulated by the FDIC and the Connecticut Department of Banking.

Get your personalized, pre-approved rates in less than 5 minutes.

#5 View More Details

For every loan they fund, they contribute to the education of a child in need

  • APR: 2.48% - 6.25%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $500K
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Visit CommonBond View Loan Disclosure

CommonBond was founded in 2011 by three MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who wanted to help their peers escape from high-interest student loan debt. Its original focus was on grad students, but it has since expanded to cover undergrads as well.

Of all the companies we reviewed, CommonBond has some of the best customer service. The company prides itself on being easy to reach by email, phone, or live chat. It offers networking events, expert panels, insider newsletters, and even has a program help borrowers who lose their jobs to find new ones. CommonBond also makes you feel good about choosing to refinance with them by donating money to an education nonprofit for each loan they write.

CommonBond Student Loan Refinance review

  • Unemployment protections - If you lose your job or decide to go back to school, you can delay your payments for up to 24 months.
  • Social promise - For every loan they fund, they also contribute to the education of a child in need.
  • Hybrid loan option - Offerings include a 10-year hybrid loan with fixed interest for the first five years, and variable interest for the final five.
  • Referral bonus - For every friend you refer who refinances their loans with CommonBond, you’ll earn a $200 cash bonus.
  • Qualification - Borrowers must have graduated at least 2 years prior if they want to apply without a co-signer. And borrowers in 6 states – Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, and Vermont – cannot currently refinance through CommonBond.

Get a personalized review of your refinancing options with CommonBond today.

#6 View More Details

Offers unemployment protection and career/coaching/networking

  • APR: 2.430% - 8.074%
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Refinance up to 100% of student debt
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Visit SoFi View Loan Disclosure

SoFi, which stands for “Social Finance,” was created by a group of Stanford business students who found themselves with a mountain of debt after graduation. They set out to change the student loan industry and help borrowers like themselves to get lower interest rates. SoFi has some of the lowest interest rates and, unlike the other lenders we reviewed, it has no maximum amount you can finance. However, Nevada residents can’t currently refinance with SoFi. Minimum loan balances are higher in Arizona, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania due to state laws. Additional state restrictions may apply.

SoFi Student Loan Refinancing Review

  • Low interest rates - For well-qualified borrowers, SoFi offers some of the lowest rates we have found.
  • Strong customer service - It has more than 350 customer service reps available to help applicants through process.
  • Career coaching and networking - Perks include career services representatives who can help you find a job or negotiate a higher salary. SoFi also hosts networking events, happy hours and educational lectures on topics like buying a home in major cities around the country.
  • Unemployment protection - Borrowers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own may apply for Unemployment Protection. If approved, SoFi will suspend their monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during the forbearance period. These benefits are offered in three month increments, and are capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. Note that interest will still accrue while loans are in forbearance.

Find out what interest rate SoFi can offer you here.

#7 View More Details

Special offers for medical resident and fellow refinance products

  • APR: 3.02% - 7.76%
  • Minimum credit score: 670 w/cosigner
  • Refinance up to $350K
View More Details
Visit Splash View Loan Disclosure

Splash Financial is a leader in student loan refinancing with new rates as low as 3.25% fixed APR which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Splash Financial is in all 50 states and is intensely focused on customer service. Splash Financial is also one of the few companies that offers a great medical resident and fellow refinance product. You can check your rate with Splash in just minutes.

  • Low interest rates – especially for graduate students
  • No application or origination fees. No prepayment penalties.
  • Co-signer release program - you can apply for a cosigner release form your loan after 12 months of on-time payments
  • Specialty product for doctors in training with low monthly payment

Click here to see more of Splash's offerings and to see how you can save money.

Comments

I reduced my student loan payment by $152 per month, by refinancing thru Nitro:

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