Now is the time for consolidating private student loans. The prime interest rate, which many loans are based on, is at the lowest point in years (3.75%). If you originally got your loans in the past few years they may be as high as 8% or more.
Consolidating your student loans can help you save money and even give your credit score a boost. Lets say you have anywhere from 4 to 8 student loans that you are paying back right now. When you consolidate them with one loan, the individual loans are paid off. That’s always a good thing on your credit report.
Depending on the term of your student loans (usually 15 or 30 years), the savings can be substantial. Lets say you have $30,000 in multiple loans at 15 years and 6.8% interest. Your monthly payment would be $267. If you consolidate all of the loans into one for 30 years at 3.75%, your payment would go to $139 per month. If your current interest rate is at the max of 8.25%, your savings would even be more.
That’s almost a savings of 50% off your payment. Even if you opted for the 15-year note, you would still save up to 20%. Depending on your amount, which is probably more than $30,000, the savings could be very impressive on any monthly budget.
Combining all your loans into one also saves you a lot time and headaches when you make payments and record keeping. But you also have to be careful. There are a lot of companies that will be more than willing to loan you the money, but the devil is in the details.
Some start off with low payments, then balloon at certain periods (say at 2nd, 5th, and 8th years your payments go up) based on the position that your income will increase also. This can be dangerous depending on many factors not in your control.
When considering any consolidation loan, look at the total debt. Look at all the fine print on time periods, payment schedules, and any penalties. Don’t take anything for granted, if it’s not in writing it doesn’t count. And once you sign the agreement, you are obligated to the conditions contained in the contract.
Make any decision based on the facts you know today, not sometime in the future. Read and understand every page of any document that you sign. It might be a good idea to have someone with knowledge in loans and contracts to review any documents before you sign on the dotted line. Keep in mind that you may not even get the 3.75% interest rate offered.
The interest rate you are offered is based on your credit score. Which is based on your payment history, amount of available credit (if you have several credit cards at or near your credit limit, that lowers your available credit), and other variables.
If you are just out of school and don’t have any credit built up, or worse yet, have trashed what little credit you did have, it’s time to make some changes. Anyone can improve his or her credit score with a little time and effort. It’s also going to be important when you get to a point where you want to buy a house.
With interest rates down at the lowest points in years, the opportunity will never be the same to reduce that college debt. If that means you need to work on your credit score, so be it. You are now in the real world and reality is very difficult to avoid.
Your credit score is very important when it comes to unsecured loans (since that’s what most consolidation loans are). The higher your credit score, the lower interest rate you will be offered in any consolidation loan. In fact, you may not even be eligible without the minimum credit score.
If you need help with improving your credit score there are a lot of free options available. Look for community or church programs that offer free assistance. If you need to establish credit, there are ways to do that also but it takes time. But the money savings will more than be worth the effort.