Can’t afford student loan payments? Try these 4 things

Federal student loan payments are on pause, but many private borrowers are still struggling to make their payments. Here are four steps to take. (iStock)

If you have federal student loans, then you’ve experienced some relief due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. There’s currently a halt on federal student loan payments through Sept. 30, 2021. However, private student loan borrowers haven’t received those same advantages.

If you’re currently struggling to repay your private student loan debt, there are options available to you. Deferment and forbearance may help but they won't lower your student loan. One of the best loan repayment options to lower the costs of your loan payments is with student loan refinancing.

When you refinance your student loans, you essentially take out a new loan at a lower rate, thus replacing your existing loan. Refinancing can help lower your monthly payments and save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

And you can use an online tool like Credible to compare your student loan refinancing rates from multiple lenders. And since Credible does a soft pull on your credit, you can get the information you need without worrying it’ll affect your credit score.

Private student loan borrowers don’t have to struggle financially. If you’re having a hard time affording your monthly student loan payments, here are four steps you can take.

1. Call your lender

Private student loan borrowers don’t receive the same protections that you’d get with federal student loans. But many lenders have options to support borrowers through the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

For instance, some lenders offer loan forbearance, which means you could put a short-term pause on your monthly loan payments. Your interest will continue to accrue, so it’s not an ideal scenario long-term, but it could provide a temporary reprieve.

The first place to start is by contacting your lender to find out what kind of relief options they have available. Most lenders are willing to work with borrowers who are in a difficult place financially.

2. Consider other repayment options

Federal loan borrowers don’t have to make any payments for at least the next six months. But the freeze on federal student loan payments will end eventually, and you’ll have to resume making your payments.

At that point, it may be a good idea to consider other repayment options. For instance, income-driven repayment (IDR) plans like REPAYE and IBR are good options for many federal borrowers.

These plans cap your monthly payments at 10% of a borrower’s discretionary income. And after 20 years of repayments, borrowers are given full loan forgiveness.

3. Consider refinancing your student loans

Refinancing is a good option for private student loan borrowers. When you refinance, you replace your current student loan with a new loan at a lower interest rate. This can help you save money over the life of the loan, and it makes your monthly payments more affordable. That way, you can pay off your debt sooner.

However, refinancing isn’t always a great option for federal loan borrowers. Federal student loans come with benefits like loan forgiveness options and other federal protections you’ll lose by refinancing.

But it’s a good option for private student loan borrowers looking for ways to reduce the amount they’re paying. You can use this online student loan refinancing calculator​ to get a sense of what your new monthly payments could be.

4. Consider loan consolidation

And finally, private student loan borrowers should consider loan consolidation. Again, this may not be the right step for federal loan borrowers to take since they’ll lose valuable federal protections on their loans.

Many college students take out multiple student loans to pay for college. This means you could be paying down multiple loans at varying interest rates. Consolidating these loans and refinancing at one new low rate will simplify your monthly payments and help you save money.

If you’re interested in learning how you can save by refinancing your student loans, your best bet is to check out Credible and explore your personal loan options. After filling out a quick form, you’ll receive quotes from up to 10 different lenders. This is the best way to compare your options and find the lender that’s right for you.

Have a finance-related question, but don't know who to ask? Email The Credible Money Expert at and your question might be answered by Credible in our Money Expert column.