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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Refinance of Student Loans What You Need to Know

By Ara Rubyan

Your Main Goal

Before you begin thinking about how to refinance your student loan, think about what your real goal is. Most people in your position will want to reduce their monthly costs. Others may simply want to consolidate all their loans into a single payment. Whichever way you go, you'll want to set a goal before you begin planning.

That said, when you refinance your student loan there are several things to consider.

First things first

Regardless of the lender you work with when you refinance your student loan, there will be certain qualifications you will have to meet. One almost universal qualification is that none of your outstanding loans are allowed to have what is called "in-school" status. In other words, you cannot be currently paying for your education with an active loan.

Another requirement is that many lending institutions set a minimum balance. That amount will vary from lender to lender, so make sure you know upfront what that balance is before you spend too much time with that lender.

Two ways to refinance your student loan

When you refinance your student loan you can reduce your monthly payments one of two ways:

* Getting a lower interest rate * Extending the duration of your loan

Most people will try to get the lowest interest rate possible because this will mean you will pay far less in total interest costs by the time you have paid off your loan.

That said, if you can't get the lowest interest rates you should consider the refinance of your student loan by extending the term of your loan. When you do this, your monthly payments will be lower. The downside is that the total dollars you pay for interest will be substantially higher. So, as stated above, you need to set your priorities before you begin implementing your plan to refinance your student loan.

Federal vs. Private Loans

Like many other people, you may have more than one type of loan; some being private loans and others being Federal loans. Because of the way Federal loans are structured, you can get a much lower interest rate on them than you can on private loans. On the other hand, private student loans are basically personal loans made with the assumption that your income will increase with more education.

That said, make sure that you refinance these student loans separately. If you consolidate these types of loans into a single package, you may find yourself paying much more on the combined loans than you need to.

Your Credit Score

Before your refinance a student loan be certain that your FICO score is high enough to make you a solid bet to the lending institution of your choice.These days no one has an excuse for not looking at their credit report -- you can get a free copy of it every twelve months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Do it now. Then take the time to review your credit report. If you find inconsistencies or problems, clear them up now. It will pay off in lower interest rates and better terms when you finally refinance your student loan.

Summary

Ultimately when you refinance your student loan, your goal should be to make your career -- and the rest of your life -- more manageable once you leave school. Be intelligent about investigating all the choices you might have before you make an informed decision. If you're careful, you won't be bogged down for the rest of your life paying back your loans.

For more info on refinancing your student loans, visit Ara Rubyan's Focus on Refinance blog.

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