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If you need a break from making payments on your private student loans, consider getting a loan deferment.
But can you defer private student loans? The answer depends on your lender, as some lenders provide options to pause your monthly payments while others do not.
But if you’re in a tight spot financially, a loan deferment may be an option to stay current on your loan and avoid delinquency or default.
Here’s how to defer private student loans:
- How to pause student loan payments on private loans
- What to do before applying for deferment or forbearance
- How student loan deferment affects your payment plan
- Alternatives to student loan deferment
- How to apply for student loan deferment
How to pause student loan payments on private loans
Loan deferment and forbearance programs typically refer to federal student loans, and private student loans are not eligible for these federal programs. But if you have private loans, you’re not necessarily out of luck. Here’s how to pause your student loan payments.
- Check with your loan servicer. Depending on your lender and their rules, you may be able to pause your payments, similar to a federal deferment or forbearance program. If you’re having trouble making your payments, contact your loan servicer immediately to discuss your options.
- Submit an application. You’ll likely need to apply online to pause your payments. You’ll still need to make your student loan payments while your application is under review. Keep in mind, the terms and fees that come with deferring your private student loans may be more costly than federal student loan options.
- Watch your balance. As with federal loans, interest may continue to build on your private student loans while in deferment or forbearance. Limit your deferment to cover the minimum amount of time necessary to get your finances back on track. Resuming payments can help you keep your balance from getting out of control.
What to do before applying for deferment or forbearance
It can’t be stressed enough: Notify your loan servicer about your hardship before applying to postpone your payments. Your lender may have options to help lower your monthly payments and better manage your loan.
Ask your lender if they offer flexible repayment options, including but not limited to loan deferment. If you’re unsure how to word your request, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers a sample letter to help you ask for lower payments. Your lender will want to know what’s causing your financial hardship, and you may be asked to provide documents to support your claim.
By knowing the root cause of your financial struggle, your lender can better provide a suitable solution. For example, if you’ve lost your job, your lender might allow you to defer your student loan payments for a few months, giving you time to find other employment.
How student loan deferment affects your payment plan
Deferring your private student loans may temporarily relieve stress on your finances, but it’s not a long-term solution if you’re struggling to make your loan payments. When you defer private student loans, the interest will grow, and your unpaid interest will capitalize. In other words, you’ll pay interest on your interest.
On top of that, your loans will experience negative amortization, meaning your total balance will rise even though you are making payments.
Because you’re not making full payments during deferment, you’re not making much progress toward repaying your loan. How deferment affects your payment plan will likely depend on your loan servicer since the rules vary by lender. If your repayment term stays the same after a deferment, your payment will likely be higher to account for the larger balance. On the other hand, your lender could require you to make up your missing payments by paying them after your original payoff date.
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Alternatives to student loan deferment
Not sure if deferring your private student loans is the best option for you? Here are some other alternatives to consider:
- Student loan forbearance: Student loan forbearance for private loans may allow you to pause payments for a period while interest still accrues. Not all private lenders offer deferment or forbearance.
- Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans: Income-driven repayment plans are an option with federal student loans to lower your payment based on your income and family size. Unfortunately, IDRs don’t exist with private student loans. However, some lenders offer modified repayment plans that are similar to those from federal loans. Check with your loan servicer to discuss your options.
- Private student loan refinancing: This option involves taking out a new loan to pay off your old one, whether private or federal. With good credit, you may qualify for a lower interest rate on a new loan, saving you money on interest charges and helping you repay your loan faster.
Alternatively, you could opt for a longer repayment term on your new loan, lowering your monthly payments. Bear in mind, extending your term will cost you more in interest charges over the life of the loan. Experts generally don’t recommend refinancing federal student loans with private ones because you could lose federal protections and student loan forgiveness options.
Run the numbers using Credible’s student loan refinancing calculator to see if refinancing could help your situation.
- Private student loan consolidation: Consolidation is a way to refinance several student loans into one new private loan with one payment. You can save money if your new loan has a lower interest rate. Again, federal student loan borrowers could lose federal protections, so this type of refinancing may not be the best option for some.
- Payment lapse: Some lenders let you skip a loan payment, especially if you have a solid payment history. Generally, the missed payment is added to the end of your repayment term.
- Company-paid student loans: If it’s an option, consider getting a job with a company that helps their staff pay their student loans. Many companies help employees pay down their student loans, including:
- Fidelity Investments
- Ally Financial
- Extra income: Increasing your income could help you manage your student loan payments and avoid a ballooning balance from deferring payments. Options for extra money include volunteering for overtime at work, negotiating a pay raise, earning a promotion, or taking on a side hustle outside of work.
Check Out: What is Student Loan Forbearance?
How to apply for student loan deferment
With private student loans, the process for loan deferment can vary by lender, so determining how to defer your student loans will involve reaching out to your lender. Call the customer service number on your loan servicer’s statement or online account to determine your next steps. Typically, you must prove your eligibility by supplying your lender with documentation like proof of unemployment benefits.
With Sallie Mae loans, you can apply for deferment if you return to school at least half-time or start an internship, clerkship, fellowship, or residency. In that case, you can download the appropriate form on the Sallie Mae website. Don’t forget to continue making your loan payments until your deferment request is approved.