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Last week, the average interest rate on refinanced student loans fell. Overall, rates remain low, making student loan refinancing an attractive option for borrowers.
For borrowers with a credit score of 720 or higher who prequalified in Credible.com’s student loan market from May 16 to May 20, the average fixed interest rate on a 10-year refinance loan was 4.77%. On a five-year variable-rate loan, the rate was 3.46%, according to Credible.com.
Related: Best student loan refinance lenders
Fixed rate loans
The average fixed rate on 10-year refinance loans last week fell 0.14% to 4.77%. The previous week, the average was 4.91%.
Because fixed interest rates stay the same for the duration of a borrower’s loan, it’s possible to lock in a rate that’s significantly lower than what you would have received this time last year. The average fixed rate on a 10-year refinance loan this time last year was 3.58%, 1.19% lower than the current rate.
A borrower refinancing $20,000 in student loans at the current average fixed rate would pay about $210 per month and about $5,187 in total interest over 10 years, according to Forbes Advisor’s student loan calculator.
Variable rate loans
Average variable rates on five-year refinance loans fell last week to 3.46% on average from 3.94%.
Unlike fixed rates, variable interest rates fluctuate over the life of a loan depending on market conditions and the index to which they are linked. Many refinance lenders recalculate rates monthly for borrowers with variable rate loans, but they usually limit the height of the rate, to 18%, for example.
Refinancing an existing $20,000 loan to a five-year loan at 3.46% interest would yield a monthly payment of approximately $363. A borrower would pay $1,809 in total interest over the life of the loan. But since the rate in this example is variable, it can go up or down from month to month during this period.
Related: Should You Refinance Student Loans?
The right time to refinance student loans
Most lenders require borrowers to graduate before refinancing, but not all do, so in most cases, wait to refinance until you graduate. You will also need a good or excellent credit score and a stable income in order to access the lowest interest rates.
If your credit is failing or your income is not high enough to qualify, you have several options. You can wait to refinance until you have accumulated credit or have sufficient income. Or, you can get a co-signer. Just make sure the co-signer knows that if you can’t repay your student loan, they will be responsible. The loan will show up on their credit report.
Finally, make sure you can save enough money to justify refinancing. At current rates, most borrowers with high credit ratings can benefit from refinancing. But those with less than excellent credit who won’t receive the lowest fixed or variable interest rates may not be able to. First, explore the rates you could prequalify for through multiple lenders, then calculate your potential savings.
What to Consider When Comparing Student Loan Refinance Rates
Refinancing a student loan at the lowest possible interest rate is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.
While variable rates may start low, they could rise in the future, making it a gamble. But one way to limit your exposure to risk is to pay off your new refinance loan as quickly as possible. Keep the loan term as short as possible and pay extra when possible so that you are not subject to any rate increases in the future.
When considering your options, compare rates from multiple student loan refinance lenders to ensure you don’t miss out on possible savings. Determine if you qualify for additional interest rate discounts, possibly by choosing automatic payments or having an existing financial account with a lender.
Other Student Loan Refinance Features to Consider
There are a few things to keep in mind when refinancing a federal student loan into a private student loan. For starters, you will lose access to certain benefits offered by federal student loans. For example, you will no longer have access to income-tested repayment plans or deferment and forbearance options.
If you’re considering refinancing federal student loans, make sure first that you probably won’t need to use any of these programs. This may be the case if your income is stable and you plan to pay off a refinance loan quickly. You always have the option of refinancing only your private loans or only part of your federal loans. Since fixed interest rates on federal loans are usually quite low, you may also decide that refinancing would not lead to substantial savings.