Student loan refinancing is a powerful resource.
Used correctly, refinancing can help borrowers save a fortune on interest and keep monthly payments manageable. Used incorrectly, it can erase student loan forgiveness options.
How Does Refinancing Impact Student Loan Forgiveness?
When you refinance your student loans, a private lender pays off some or all of your current loans. A new refinance loan is created that the borrower must repay.
The purpose of the refinance is for the borrower to use their improved credit score and/or income to qualify for better loan terms.
However, because a new loan is created, benefits that came with the previous loan are erased. A new loan means new terms and conditions. In some cases, borrowers might be better off by keeping their old loans — even if it means living with a higher interest rate.
In most cases, opting to refinance significantly reduces, or eliminates, any chance of student loan forgiveness. As a result, refinancing some loans is riskier than others.
Tax Considerations: Refinancing your student loans usually doesn’t impact your ability to deduct student loan interest on your tax return. However, spending less on interest does mean a smaller deduction.
Three Categories of Student Loan Risk when Refinancing
Refinancing isn’t always a good idea, and it isn’t always a bad idea.
Instead, borrowers need to carefully consider the consequences of having a new loan replace their old loans.
I usually break refinancing down into three different categories:
Extremely Dangerous to Refinance
Are you chasing after Public Service Loan Forgiveness? Do you need the option of an income-driven repayment plan?
Federal student loans have interest rates that are a bit high, but federal loans also have the best borrower protections. Private lenders cannot compete with the federal loan terms.
If you think you are likely to take advantage of any of the various federal programs, don’t refinance your federal loans into a private loan.
Use Caution when Refinancing
Some borrowers have federal student loans, but they don’t see a need for federal perks and protections.
These borrowers may have reviewed the various forgiveness programs available and concluded that they wouldn’t qualify. Similarly, their income is high enough that an income-driven repayment plan doesn’t help save money.
If student loan elimination is just a matter of time for you, and you have the option to save a bundle by lowering interest rates, it might make sense to refinance your federal loans into a private loan.
However, even in this circumstance, caution is still necessary. Once you refinance your federal loans into a private loan, there is no way to undo the process.
Refinancing is a Safe Option
If you have private student loans, refinancing is a much safer option.
You are not giving up any federal perks. Instead, you are trading one private lender for another.
Additionally, it is worth noting that you don’t have to refinance all of your student loans. Borrowers can pick and choose which loans get refinanced and which loans stay with their current lender.
What about student loan cancellation or forgiveness for private loans?
Some borrowers fear that by refinancing their private loans, they may miss out on possible loan forgiveness or cancellation in the future.
However, student loan forgiveness at this point is unlikely. If it did happen, it almost certainly would not apply to private loans. Finally, if by some miracle there was private loan forgiveness, a private refinanced loan would almost certainly receive the same treatment as other private loans.
Finding the Best Refinance Lender
However, the vast majority of borrowers should focus on finding the lender offering the lowest interest rate. Slight differences in customer service and lender reputations usually are not enough to justify paying a higher interest rate.
As of November 2021, the following lenders offer the lowest interest rates:
Alternatively, if a reduced interest rate and lower monthly payment are more appealing, a 20-year fixed-rate loan might make the most sense. As of November 2021, the following lenders have the lowest rates in the 20-year fixed-rate category: