Consolidating your private student loans

And while our site doesn’t feature every company or financial product available on the market, we’re proud that the guidance we offer, the information we provide and the tools we create are objective, independent, straightforward — and free. Here’s how to choose a strategy — federal student loan consolidation, refinancing through a private lender or income-based repayment — that will make your payments more affordable.

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But unlike the federal government, they can consolidate both federal and private loans.

The goal with this process is not only to get the ease of a single payment, but to receive a lower interest rate based on your financial history.

Consider refinancing if you have: Refinancing federal loans into a private loan means losing consumer protections specific to federal loans.

Those include the option to tie payments to income and get loans forgiven if you work for the government or a nonprofit.

If you have private loans only, or you don’t plan to take advantage of those federal protections, compare refinance lenders to get the lowest possible rate.

Strongly consider lenders that offer the most flexibility on payments and multiple options for forbearance.» MORE: Student loan refinance calculator: Should I refinance?Federal loan consolidation doesn’t have a credit requirement, and it offers the benefit of a single loan bill and potentially lower payments.But it’s only for federal loans, and it won’t cut your interest rate.Consider federal consolidation if you: If you’re considering either federal or private student loan consolidation in order to get a drastically lower loan bill, look further into income-driven repayment instead.The government offers plans that cut payments to 10% or 15% of “discretionary” income and offer forgiveness on the remaining balance after 20 or 25 years. If you have a large loan balance and a low income, income-driven repayment is probably your best option for the lowest monthly bill.

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