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There are many reasons why you might make a late student loan payment, such as financial strain or even a simple mistake.
But it’s important to make your payments on time — and to reach out to your loan servicer if you’re in danger of missing a payment.
Here’s what to know about late student loan payments and how to avoid them in the first place:
- Late federal student loan payments
- Late private student loan payments
- What can happen if your student loans enter default
- 5 ways to avoid missing a student loan payment
- If you’re at risk of missing a payment, contact your lender
Late federal student loan payments
A federal student loan is considered delinquent the day after you miss a payment. The longer your loan remains delinquent, the harsher the consequences could be — especially if your loan goes into default.
Here’s the timeline you can expect if you miss federal student loan payments:
|1 day past due||Loan will enter delinquent status|
|30 days past due||You might be charged late fees, depending on your loan servicer|
|90 days past due||Your loan servicer will report the delinquency to the three major credit bureaus|
|270 days past due||Loan will move into default status|
Learn More: Average Time to Repay Student Loans
Late private student loan payments
Similar to federal student loans, private student loans are also considered delinquent as soon as you miss a payment.
But the consequences of not paying on private student loans could come much faster than with federal student loans.
Here’s what you might expect if you miss a private student loan payment:
|1 day past due||
|30-45 days past due||Your lender will likely report the delinquency to the major credit bureaus|
|120 days past due||
- Student Loan Rehabilitation vs. Consolidation: Getting Out of Default
- Statute of Limitations on Private Student Loans: State Guide
Here’s what can happen if your student loans enter default
Student loan default can have serious ramifications on your finances. Here’s what could happen:
- Defaulting on federal student loans will make you ineligible for future federal student aid, as well as relief programs like deferment or forbearance. Worst of all, your entire loan balance becomes immediately due. This is called acceleration and could cause serious financial strain. Additionally, the default will be reported to the credit bureaus, further damaging your credit score. If you’re unable to pay, your wages could be garnished or your tax refund withheld.
- Defaulting on private student loans will likely land you in collections. Your lender could also file a lawsuit against you to try to recoup costs. This could severely damage your credit and further loan eligibility.
- Lenders That Will Refinance Student Loans for Non-Graduates
- Defaulted Student Loans: Can You Refinance?
5 ways to avoid missing a student loan payment
The best way to avoid default is to make all of your student loan payments on time. Here are a few strategies to make sure your student loan payments don’t fall through the cracks:
1. Set up autopay
Signing up for autopay can keep you from forgetting your student loan due date. As long as you have enough funds in your bank account to cover a payment on the day it processes, you’ll never miss a student loan payment with automatic payments.
2. Make sure your contact information is up to date
If your contact information changes, be sure to notify your loan servicer right away. This way, you won’t miss important updates and payment details from your servicer.
Learn More: Private Student Loan Consolidation
3. Apply for income-based repayment programs
If you’re having trouble keeping up with federal student loan payments, an income-based repayment program could be a good solution.
These programs base your monthly payment on your income and typically extend your repayment term, which could lower your payments and make them more manageable.
4. Look into deferment or forbearance options
Deferment and forbearance programs can temporarily pause your student loan payments, but these options differ depending on if you have federal or private student loans.
- Federal student loans: If you have eligible federal student loans, interest might stop accruing during deferment. With forbearance, your loans continue accruing interest.
- Private student loans: Deferment and forbearance options are offered at the discretion of the lender. For example, Ascent and Sallie Mae both provide deferment and forbearance programs.
Check Out: Student Loan Deferment vs. Forbearance
5. Lower your monthly payments by refinancing your student loans
When you refinance student loans, your old loans are paid off with a new one. If you qualify for a lower interest rate or choose to extend your repayment term, you could end up with lower monthly payments — making it easier to stay on top of them.
If you’re wondering how competitive your loan is, the loan score tool below can help. Just enter your APR, credit score, monthly payment, and remaining balance (estimates are fine) to see how your loan stacks up.
If you’re at risk of missing a payment, contact your lender
If you think you might miss a student loan payment (or are already late on a payment), contact your lender right away to see what your options are.
Your lender can help you make a plan to get current with your loan and might be willing to waive fees if it’s your first time missing a payment.
If you’re thinking about refinancing to get a lower payment, be sure to consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for your situation. Credible makes this easy — you can compare multiple lenders with us in just two minutes.