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Refinancing your student loan debt with bad credit might seem like a difficult task, but it’s definitely possible. Instead of worrying about the hurdles, here are a few things you can do if you want to refinance student loans with bad credit:
1. Use a cosigner
A cosigner is someone — usually a parent, friend, or relative — who has good to excellent credit and will sign onto your loan with you. Usually you’ll need a cosigner if your credit alone won’t qualify you for refinancing. A cosigner with excellent credit will not only help you qualify, but they can also get you a lower interest rate.
Remember that if you can’t make payments or your payments are late, your credit score will take a hit — and so will your cosigner’s. It’s important to set up ground rules and a repayment plan with your cosigner before taking on student loan refinancing. Talk about the risks involved and what happens if you think you’ll need to make a late payment.
2. Improve your credit first
Before you start the process of refinancing your student loans, you may want to take some time to improve your credit score.
You can improve your credit score by:
- Paying your bills on time: Set calendar reminders or put your bills on autopay so you never miss a monthly payment.
- Paying off outstanding debt: Keep your credit utilization low — under 30%. The lower your credit utilization — or the amount of outstanding credit you owe — the better you look to creditors.
- Keeping old accounts open: Older accounts — even those you don’t use often — tell creditors you’ve spent a long time building credit. Closing accounts will lower the length of your credit history, which could be a turnoff to some lenders.
- Not opening new accounts: When you open a new credit card or take out a loan, that triggers a hard inquiry, which can temporarily cause your credit score to dip. They also lower your average credit age. Try to avoid opening new accounts, if possible.
As you’re working to improve your credit score, keep tabs on it often to see your progress. You can also check your credit report every year for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Use this as a guide to see if you have any errors or potential fraud, which can also hurt your score.
3. Compare lenders
Not all lenders offer the same repayment options. Some of the best companies to refinance student loans have minimal fees and a low threshold for qualifying. That means if you’re trying to refinance your student loans with bad credit, you’ll be able to get a loan.
When comparing lenders be sure to pay close attention to:
- Rates: Usually, if companies accept borrowers with low credit scores (without a cosigner), interest rates tend to be higher. Make sure this is something that’s within your budget.
- Length of repayment: Look at the total length of your repayment plan. Some lenders offer terms up to 20 years. This is helpful if you need to have low loan payments to stay on track. But keep in mind that the longer your loan terms, the more you will end up paying in interest.
It might be helpful to estimate how much your potential monthly payments and the total loan repayment will be using a student loan refinancing calculator.
The student loan consolidation companies in the table below are Credible’s approved partner lenders. Because they compete for your business through Credible, you can request rates from all of them by filling out a single form. Then, you can compare your available options side-by-side. Requesting rates is free, doesn’t affect your credit score, and your personal information is not shared with our partner lenders unless you see an option you like.
|Lender||Rates from (APR)||Min. credit score||Min. annual income|
|Does not disclose||$24,000|
|690||$30,000 with cosigner
|Does not disclose||$24,000|
|Does not disclose||Does not disclose|
|670||$24,000 with cosigner
|Does not disclose||Does not disclose|
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Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR") published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of April 1, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.92%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-9.05% (2.72%-9.05% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower's loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 3.79% - 9.30% (3.79% - 9.30% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
4. Consider federal consolidation
If you can’t qualify for refinancing with your credit and you’re just looking to consolidate your federal loans, you can try federal loan consolidation instead.
Consolidation is like refinancing: You’ll combine all your loans into one. But you won’t be taking out a brand new loan, like you would if you refinanced. Instead, the interest rate is the weighted average of all your student loans combined, rounded to the nearest one-eighth percent.
Direct Consolidation Loans are only available through the U.S. Department of Education for federal student loans. If you have a mix of federal and private student loans, only your federal loans will qualify.
If you have private student loans or a mix of both, you might need to consider refinancing, though.
Is it time to refinance your student loans?
Now that you know what it takes to refinance, you’ll want to start looking at exactly how to refinance your student loans. Check out lenders, compare rates and terms, then choose the best option for you and complete your application.