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4 Best Ways to Pay Off Your Student Loans in 2022

April 7, 2022

If you have student loan debt, then you know how suffocating it can seem. Imagine waking up one day with a student loan balance of zero. Bliss.

I want to help you get to that point as quickly as possible, so I’m going to go over the best ways to pay off your student loans. Using one of these methods, you can pay off your student debt faster while simultaneously saving money.

1. Student Loan Refinancing

When it comes to saving money on your student loans, the best thing you can do is refinance through a private lender. When you refinance, you can combine both federal and private student loans into one new loan. This makes it much easier to make your monthly payment since you’ll only be making one payment instead of juggling different loans.

While that might be reason enough to consider refinancing, it gets even better. Refinancing your student loans is the only way to lock in a lower interest rate and get more favorable repayment terms. This can lower your monthly payment and also save the total amount you pay in interest, saving you money over the life of the loan.

Since both federal and private student loans can be refinanced, anyone with student loan debt is potentially eligible. The eligibility requirements will differ between lenders, but the most important factors are:

  • Credit score of at least 670
  • Debt-to-income ratio (DTI) less than 50%
  • Verifiable steady income

If you think you might want to refinance, you can check your rates for free on Credible with no impact to your credit score, so you have nothing to lose.

Pros

  • A better interest rate saves you money
  • You can lower your monthly payment by extending repayment terms
  • Having just one monthly student loan payment is convenient

Cons

  • You may lose the protections of federal student loans
  • You’ll need a good credit score to qualify

Check Your Rates on Credible

2. Make Bigger Monthly Payments

If you just want to pay your loans off as quickly as possible, making bigger monthly payments is a simple solution – if you can afford it.

By paying more of your outstanding balance off every month, you’ll pay less interest over time and become debt-free much faster. Every little bit helps in the long run, so even paying $50 to $100 more each month could save you years of repayment down the road.

Pros

  • You can pay off your loans faster
  • Less interest accrues over time

Cons

  • Rates and terms stay the same
  • You’ll need to have extra money for this each month

3. Save By Enrolling in Autopay

Many lenders – including federal loan servicers and private lenders – will offer you a discount for enrolling in autopay. Not only does autopay ensure you’ll never miss a payment, but the ~0.25% discount that lenders offer can save you a substantial amount of money over the life of your loans.

Pros

  • You can easily lower your interest rate
  • You never have to worry about forgetting to make a payment

Cons

  • Not available from all loan servicers
  • Can cause an overdraft if your account runs low

4. See If Your Employer Has a Student Loan Repayment Program

In an ideal world, you’ll graduate college and quickly find a great job to begin your career. The only way to make that even better would be finding an employer that offers student loan repayment. Many employers, including even the Federal Government, offer these programs to help draw quality candidates in.

Private employers can also get tax breaks on the amount they pay off for you (up to $5,250 per year), so it could be beneficial for both parties. It doesn’t hurt to ask!

Pros

  • Could pay off your entire balance for you
  • Typically not considered taxable income
  • Pays off your loans faster than normal

Cons

  • Not available from most employers
  • Annual payback limit of $5,250

The Best Lenders for Student Loan Refinancing

If you’re thinking of going the refinancing route, these are some of the best ways to get started. All these platforms offer free online rate-check tools, so you can see your rates in seconds with no commitment.

1. Credible

Credible isn’t a direct lender itself. It’s a loan marketplace that quickly matches you with up to 13 different refinancing lenders. You can then compare the different offers side by side to find the best rates and terms possible. Checking your rates is free and doesn’t impact your credit score.

With Credible, you can find fixed rates as low as 2.15% and variable rates as low as 1.74%. Terms range from 5 to 20 years, with plenty of options in between. The platform ensures the lowest rates possible with its $200 Best-Rate Guarantee.

See Your Rates on Credible

2. Splash Financial

Similar to Credible, Splash Financial partners with a network of lenders. Once you fill out the application, you can see rates and terms from multiple lenders side by side.

Variable rates through this platform are the same as above, starting as low as 1.74%. But Splash Financial really takes the cake when it comes to fixed rates, which start at just 1.99% APR.

See Your Rates on Splash Financial

3. Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank is a direct lender that offers student loan refinancing on federal and private student loans. You can check your rate online and see what you qualify for in minutes.

Even though the rates from Citizens Bank are higher than the other platforms, it has a 0.50% autopay discount, which is twice as much as the 0.25% discount from the other options.

See Your Rates on Citizens Bank

4 Steps to Get a Student Loan Refinance

1. Shop Around and Get Rate Estimates

It’s best to start by researching multiple lenders. Although they might seem alike, each lender has different features. For example, if you didn’t graduate, you’ll need to find a lender that doesn’t require a completed degree. You can compare offers from multiple lenders side by side on Credible.

Next, you’ll get rate estimates by prequalifying. This requires a soft credit pull and won’t impact your credit. Most lenders ask for basic information, such as:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Income
  • Monthly housing cost
  • Total student loan debt
  • University and degree

2. Pick a Lender and Loan Terms

As you get offers from different lenders, you’ll see fixed and variable interest rates, as well as a range of repayment terms. A variable interest rate usually provides a lower rate to start, but after a certain period, that rate can fluctuate. A fixed interest rate stays the same throughout the life of the loan.

Most people choose the lender offering the lowest interest rate. You may want to consider any other discounts, like autopay or loyalty discounts, before deciding.

3. Collect Documentation and Apply

When you’ve made a decision on your lender, you’ll complete an application. Most lenders require some documentation, including a government-issued photo ID, social security number, federal and private loan statements, and proof of income.

4. Wait for Approval and Loan Payoff

Once your application is complete, you’ll continue making your payments as usual while you wait for approval. This usually takes about 3 weeks, though it varies by each lender. When your new lender confirms approval, it will pay off your existing lender(s) and you’ll begin making payments to your new lender.

See Your Rates on Credible

The Best Way to Repay Your Student Loans

Student loan refinancing is the best way to pay off your student loans since it lowers your rate and reduces the amount you have to pay back overall.

You can use Credible to easily compare rates side by side and get the best terms on the market. If refinancing isn’t for you, then you can also make bigger monthly payments, take advantage of discounts, and ask your employer if they offer student loan repayment.

See Your Rates on Credible

FAQ

What is the most cost-effective way to pay off student loans?

The most cost-effective way to pay off student loans is to find an employer that pays them off for you. If that’s not possible, the best way to save money while paying off your student loans is to refinance at a better rate. This will save you money in the long run and could even help you pay them off more quickly.

If you just want to see what kind of rates you can get, you can fill out the application form on Credible with no commitment and no impact to your credit score.

What is the fastest way to pay off student loans?

The fastest way to pay off your student loans is by locking in a lower interest rate and paying as much as you can each month. When you refinance for a lower rate, you’ll have less debt to pay off over time. By making bigger payments each month, you’ll pay the principal off faster while also preventing more interest from accruing.

Is this a good time to refinance my student loans?

Yes, now is the best time to refinance your student loans. With interest rates at all-time lows, you need to take advantage and refinance your student loans before the Federal Reserve raises interest rates in the coming months. You might never see rates this low again!

Andrew Koopman
Written by
Andrew Koopman is a freelance finance writer. He's written hundreds of articles over the years, specializing in topics such as improving credit, paying off debt, and applying for loans. Andrew graduated from Miami University with a Master's degree in mechanical engineering. He loves watching sports and enjoying the great outdoors with his friends and family.