Why I Refinanced My Student Loans — Twice

 

Refinancing your student loans can be a great way to accelerate debt repayment or free up some of your monthly budget. I recently refinanced my student loans for a second time, which was a strategic move to improve my overall financial health.

Here’s why I think this can be a smart idea, if you do it at the right time in the right way.

What Is Student Loan Refinancing?

If you’re new here and wondering what refinancing even is, allow me to explain. When you refinance your student loans, you essentially apply for a new loan so that a new lender will buy out your current student loans and give you a new loan with better terms.

“Better” terms depends on what your goal is. For many people, getting a better loan means getting a lower interest rate. If you want to save hundreds of thousands of dollars of interest over the life of your loan, refinancing is a great way to do that. You can structure your loan to pay it off faster at a lower interest rate. This might mean higher monthly payments than you’re used to but a much lower cost of your loan overall.

If you’re having trouble paying your student loans and your monthly payment is too high right now, you can also refinance your student loans to lower your monthly payment. So if you’re on a 10-year plan now, you could refinance to a 15- or 20-year plan to spread out your payments until you get on better financial footing.

Why I Refinanced Twice

About a year ago, I refinanced my federal student loans with SoFi because I wanted to get a better interest rate and pay off my loans faster. My student loans totaled $33,000 with an interest rate of 6.8% with 15 years left on the loan. My monthly payment was around $295 a month. I dropped over a half a percentage point in the interest rate to 6.25% and chose to pay off my loans in 7 years, which increased my monthly payment to about $485. Had I stayed with this loan, I would have saved almost $12,000 in interest fees over time.

I paid my monthly payments dutifully every month, but when my husband and I recently sat down to plan an aggressive debt payoff using the snowball method, we realized that I had been a bit too aggressive with my initial refinance.

Essentially, we wanted to throw as much money as possible at our high-interest debt. Our student loans were at manageable interest rates compared to our credit cards, and we wanted to restructure things a bit to free up more cash.

After receiving a refinance advertisement from College Ave in the mail, I decided to see if I could refinance my student loans and my husband’s graduate school loans with them. It had been only a year or so since my first refinance, but I was still interested. For the record, I tried twice previously to refinance my husband’s loans with SoFi, but they didn’t like his current salary as a medical resident, and they said I was not a qualified co-signer.

Well, luckily College Ave thought I was, so I was able to refinance both my student loans and my husband’s graduate school loans with College Ave. Our interest rates remained the same but I was able to customize a payoff plan that works well with our current debt snowball.

Basically, I chose a plan that allowed us to make graduated payments, so my payments for the next two years are significantly lower than they used to be. That gives me two years to knock out some of our credit card debt without worrying about having large student loan payments.

The Benefits of Student Loan Refinancing

In addition to getting longer or shorter payoff periods and better interest rates, there are other reasons why you might choose to refinance your student loans. For example, if you co-signed your student loans with your parents, sometimes student loan refinance companies will let you get a new loan entirely in your name, getting your parents off the hook.

Many people also refinance their student loans to be more organized. If you have several different student loans and bills with a mixture of interest rates, consolidating your student loans allows you to finally have one monthly bill with one interest rate in one place. This helps reduce the possibility of being late on your payments.

Things to Watch Out for Before You Refinance

While I’m obviously an advocate of refinancing, it’s important to know the downsides as well. The main downside is that if you refinance to a private company from having federal student loans, you lose a lot of the flexibility and perks of the federal student loan system.

Not all private lenders have as many repayment options as federal loans have, and most of them do not offer the perks that come with income-based repayment. For example, my husband’s medical school loans are under the income-based repayment plan called REPAYE, where the government is subsidizing his interest payments (several hundred dollars a month). This is not a perk I was willing to give up, but I was happy to refinance his private graduate school student loans to another private lender with better terms.

It’s Easier Than You Think

I know that switching student loan providers might sound like a complicated process, but with all the online financing companies available now, it’s easier than ever. The process to apply to refinance my student loans took less than 20 minutes both times.

Just make sure to have some identification documents on hand, like your driver’s license and Social Security card, to keep the process running smoothly. After my application was approved, it took about two weeks for my student loans to be completely moved over. Plus, since my new servicer paid off my own loans, that counted as a “payment,” which freed up even more cash this month.

Ultimately, student loan refinancing can be a strategic tool you can use when it comes to bettering your finances and getting out of debt faster. As long as you understand the process, ask to make sure you’re aware of any possible fees, and double-check that the process runs smoothly, you could be well on your way to financial freedom just by adjusting your interest rates and your payments on your student loans.

The post Why I Refinanced My Student Loans — Twice appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

SoFi Review: Personal & Student Loans with Low Rates and No Fee

SoFi Review: Personal & Student Loans

Updated April 12, 2017

SoFi is an online loan company that offers student loan refinancing options, mortgages and personal loans. SoFi offers some of the lowest interest rates and the best consumer experience in the market. We have researched thousands of products from hundreds of companies, and SoFi is one of our favorites. However, they have strict credit criteria and target people with good jobs, good income, a proven ability to manage a budget and good credit history. If SoFi* approves you, you will probably have a difficult time finding a lower interest rate anywhere else.

In this post, we will review both Student Loans and Personal Loans. (They have just launched mortgages, and we will be updating this post later with a review of that product). For each, we will discuss:

  • The details of the product: how much can you borrow, and at what price
  • Approval criteria: how does SoFi underwrite, and who are they likely to accept

In addition, at the end we will give you more details of SoFi, including who funded them, how big they are and their reputation.

Student Loan Refinance (Skip Ahead for Personal Loans)

SoFi has just reduced the minimum loan amount. You can now refinance as little as $5,000 of student loan debt. There is no cap on how much you can refinance. Based upon your cash flow, SoFi will try to provide an option to refinance all of your student loan debt.

There is no origination fee and no prepayment penalty. It offers some of the lowest rates out there. Fixed APRs range from 3.375% – 6.74%*, and variable APRs range from 2.565% – 6.490%.* These rates are available so long as you enroll in auto-pay.* Given that interest rates are at an all-time low, you should think carefully before signing up for a variable interest rate. If you can pay off your loan in a short period of time, you could save a lot of money. If it will take you longer, you may not want to take the interest rate risk.

You can refinance on a 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 year term.

For example, if you borrow $30,000 on a 10 year term at an APR of 4.615%, your monthly payment will be $312.58. Under those terms, you’re paying back a total of $37,509.60 (120 payments). If you borrow the same amount, but have a 6.8% APR, your monthly payment is $345.24, paying back a total of $41,428.80. In this case, SoFi’s low rates have the potential to save you nearly $4,000.

SoFi will refinance both private and federal student loans. However, if you refinance a federal loan you will give up all federal protections and programs, including income-based repayment programs. SoFi is unique among private lenders because it offer unemployment insurance, free of charge. If you lose your job for no fault of your own (you can’t quit), SoFi will suspend your monthly payments until you find a new job. You can do this for up to 12 months. The interest that accrues during this period would be added to the loan.

SoFi also offers an entrepreneur program to help graduates who dream of owning a business.

Under this program, loans can be deferred for six months so borrowers can focus on growing their businesses. SoFi provides access to networking events, mentors, and investors.

Refinancing with SoFi isn’t an option for everyone. First, refinancing is currently unavailable to those residing in Nevada, and variable rate options aren’t available to those in Ohio or Tennessee.

Second, SoFi has a list of available schools and programs it services. If your school or program isn’t on that list, you won’t be eligible to refinance.

Third, SoFi typically requires applicants to have excellent credit. It occasionally accepts co-signers – you must call to review your situation with a representative. However, there’s no co-signer release if you move forward with one on your loan.

To be eligible to refinance your student loans with SoFi, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident 18 years or older
  • You need to have a 4-year undergraduate or graduate degree from a Title IV accredited institution
  • You have to be employed or have an offer of employment starting in 90 days from the time you apply
  • You need to be in good standing on your current student loans
  • You should have a good, stable employment history
  • A strong monthly cash flow is a must
  • An excellent FICO score will improve your chances of being approved

The application process is straightforward and SoFi’s pre-approval should take you less than 15 minutes to complete. You likely won’t need most of the documents listed below until you’re ready to move forward with a loan, but they’re good to have on hand while you’re shopping around.

  • Existing student loan information (SoFi will need your account information for the loans you wish to finance)
  • Employment information – salary, offer of employment, length of employment
  • Most recent pay stubs as proof of income and employment (if you’re currently employed)
  • Diploma or transcript in the event SoFi needs to verify your graduation

It’s good to note SoFi accepts screenshots from your PC and pictures taken from a phone, so if you don’t have access to a scanner, there’s no need to worry.

If you’re ready to get started, you can apply for a refinance and check your rate by clicking the button below.

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Details on SoFi’s Personal Loan

At SoFi, you can borrow between $5,000 and $100,000.

There is no origination fee, no prepayment penalty and no balance transfer fee. They are truly unique in this regard.

You can borrow the money for 3, 5 or 7 years.

In addition, SoFi offers unemployment protection. Unlike traditional personal loan companies, they are not looking to make money from unemployment insurance. Instead, they are offering it as a feature and a brand promise. And the insurance is generous. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you will be given a payment holiday. Interest will continue to accrue on the loan (and be added to the balance), but no payment will be due and your loan will continue to be reported as current to the credit bureau. You can have 3 consecutive months of payments made at a time, and you can have up to 12 months of payments made during the life of the loan. That offers great flexibility. In addition, they offer job placement services to help you find a job.

Fixed interest rates range from 5.49% to 14.24%* – but you have to sign up for auto-pay in order to get these rates. In addition, SoFi offers variable interest rates from 4.990% – 11.090%* with auto-pay. The rates are based upon 1-month LIBOR and are capped at 14.95%.*

You can use the loans for almost any purpose: pay off credit card debt, home improvement, or anything else because the money can be deposited as cash in your checking account.

Apply Now

What Does It Take to Get Approved?

In order to be approved for a loan, you must at least meet the following requirements:

  • You are a US citizen or permanent resident
  • You are at least the age of majority in your state (typically 18)
  • You are currently employed
  • You have graduated from a selection of Title IV accredited universities or graduate programs (only for the student loan product. For personal loans, there is no university requirement).

Personal loans are not available to residents of the following states: Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee.

If you fail to meet the above criteria, you will be rejected. However, just because you meet these criteria does not mean that you will be approved. SoFi will:

  • Perform an analysis of your ability to repay. They do a “cash flow analysis” looking at your income and expenditure, making sure you can pay
  • Perform an analysis of your history with credit. Missed payments and defaults will most likely get your rejected. You need to have a strong history of repayment. Although they are not a FICO-driven lender (because they look at education, employment and cash flow), the following people will likely have a difficulty getting approved:
    • People who do not have excellent credit. In particular, if you have missed payments or have rapidly built up debt, you could find it difficult to qualify.
    • If you have a “thin credit file”, you will still have a good chance of getting approved. A thin file means that you do not have much information in your credit report. Although that could be a problem with traditional credit scores, SoFi might still be willing to work with you.
    • People with collection items, judgments or other negative legal action

SoFi offers some of the lowest interest rates out there, and they are picky about who they approve. If you have a good degree, a good job and a history of making payments on time, you will likely be able to benefit from SoFi.

And here is the best news: you can check to see if you will be approved, and the interest rate you would receive, without hurting your credit score. SoFi uses what is called a “soft pull” to determine your interest rate and your loan amount.

Given how low the interest rates are at SoFi, if you have a college degree you should take the 3-4 minutes to see if you can be approved. The only cost is your time.

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Remember that you’re in no way obligated to take a loan once you apply.

Unless you accept the loan and go through with the hard credit inquiry, SoFi doesn’t hold you to taking the loans presented to you.

All About SoFi

You can trust SoFi. They are a very well funded start-up, having raised $164 million from some of the biggest and most influential venture capital firms in the Silicon Valley.

They have also built a very strong relationship with investors, and have funded more than $2 billion in loans to date.

SoFi has been created with a mission to revolutionize the way we borrow in this country. In particular:

  • They want to make it easy for people to shop for a loan, believing that you should be able to get your interest rate without hurting your score
  • They want to create an easy, seamless experience with a great user experience
  • They want to cut out the costs of the big banks, giving lower interest rates to borrowers and higher interest rates to lenders
  • They want to create a different type of borrowing experience, by providing unemployment insurance as a free benefit.

Their mission, and their personal loan product, align to the vision of MagnifyMoney. When we created MagnifyMoney, we hoped to find lenders like SoFi, and are pleased to award them an A+ Transparency Score.

Apply Now

We only have one criticism: their underwriting criteria is very tight right now. Hopefully, over time, they will be able to expand the criteria and be able to provide the great experience to people who may have experienced some financial difficulties in the past.

 

The post SoFi Review: Personal & Student Loans with Low Rates and No Fee appeared first on MagnifyMoney.