Whether you’re a new grad who wants to get a grip on how much you owe and set up a payment plan or a working professional who wants to find out how much you’ve paid off of your total balance, keeping tabs on your student loan numbers is an important part of financial wellbeing. But for something that is so important, it can be surprisingly confusing to locate all your student loan information.
The simplest answer to the question “how to view my federal student loans” is through the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). The NSLDS website is run by the U.S. Department of Education and offers a convenient option for getting a comprehensive picture of all of your federal loans.
NSLDS can show you information on your federal student loans like:
• The number and types of loans you have
• The initial amount of your loans
• Your current loan balances
• The interest rates on your loans
• If any of your loans are in default
• The name of your loan service provider and their contact information
Using the National Student Loan Data System
In order to see your loan information on the NSLDS system, you’ll need to enter some personal information and agree to the privacy terms. Make sure to have your Social Security number, date of birth, and Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID available.
On the NSLDS.ed.gov website, click on “Financial Aid Review.” You will be prompted to enter your personal information, including your name, Social Security number, date of birth and FSA ID number. Once you click enter, NSLDS will show you an overview of your current loan situation.
Finding Your FSA ID
In order to get information about your student loans, you’ll need your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. This ID is made up of a username and password that is used to protect your personal information.
The FSA ID replaced the Federal Student Aid PIN in 2015 , so if you haven’t taken out new federal student loans or have not logged into a Federal Student Aid website since 2015, you might not have an FSA ID yet. Can’t remember if you have an FSA ID or not? You can easily check whether you already have an FSA ID on studentaid.ed.gov by going to “create an FSA ID” and entering your personal information to see if it matches an account.
If you don’t yet have an FSA ID, you can create a new account on studentaid.ed.gov . Once you sign up for an FSA ID, the federal government will verify your information with the Social Security Administration . Once your information is verified, you will be able to use your FSA ID to obtain information about all of your federal student loans.
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Where Do I Pay My Student Loans?
Even though you can obtain all the information about your student loans through the NSLDS , that is not actually where you pay your student loans. Once you’re logged on to NSLDS, you should be able to see the name and contact information for your student loan service provider. Your student loan service provider is the entity charged with collecting your loan payments.
Once you know who your student loan servicer is, you should be able to set up an online account directly with the loan servicer. Some student loan servicers also offer the option to set up automatic bill pay.
If you’d rather go old school, don’t worry, your student loan servicer’s website should also have information about making payments in other ways, like check or bank transfer.
How Do I Pay My Student Loans?
Once you know how to view your federal student loans, you may still be wondering how exactly to pay them off. Viewing your federal loans is just the first step; next, you need to strategize your student loan repayment. One of the first things you may want to do is consider your different repayment plan options.
Side note: If you’re not sure yet how much you can afford to pay each month, you can use our student loan calculator to get estimates of what your monthly payments could look like under the various plans.
The federal government offers a handful of options when it comes to federal student loan repayment . These repayment plans are designed for people with different types of financial situations and priorities, from those who want a straightforward way to pay off their loans in 10 year period to those looking for income-driven repayment plans.
Here’s a quick rundown of the options offered for federal student loans:
The Standard Repayment plan is the default loan repayment plan for federal student loans. The Standard Repayment plan has you pay a fixed amount every month for up to 10 years in order to pay off your loan(s).
Another option is Extended Repayment , which works similarly to the Standard Repayment plan. Instead of making payments over 10 years, the payments are extended up to 25 years.
The Graduated Repayment Plan also offers a 10 year repayment option. Under this plan, monthly loan payments start at a lower amount and are then increased every two years for up to 30 years.
There are also four income-driven repayment plans. Under these plans, monthly payments are determined as a percentage of the borrower’s monthly income. Depending on the plan, repayment may last either 20 or 25 years .
If you’re just starting to pay back your student loans after graduation, you’ll likely be automatically assigned to the Standard Repayment plan. You can change the repayment plan you are enrolled in at any time.
The federal government may also have options for you to consolidate your student loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan, which would allow you to group all your loans together into a single loan from the government, with an interest rate that’s the weighted average of all your loans’ interest rates, rounded up to the nearest eighth of a percent .
In addition to the repayment plans offered by the federal government, you might also consider refinancing your student loans with a private company. Loan refinancing pays off your current federal and private student loans with a new loan from a private lender.
The private lender will review factors like your credit history and income potential to determine your new terms. For some borrowers, student loan refinancing may result in a lower interest rate, lower monthly payments, or even a shorter repayment term—which could mean you spend less money in interest over the life of the loan.
Keep in mind is that loan refinancing isn’t right for everyone. If you refinance your federal loans they will no longer be eligible for any federal repayment assistance, like income-driven repayment or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
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Student Loan Refinancing
If you are a federal student loan borrower you should take time now to prepare for your payments to restart, including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.) Please note that once you refinance federal student loans, you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans, such as the SAVE Plan, or extended repayment plans.