If you’re like most recent graduates, you probably have a mix of federal student loans and private loans totaling almost $40,000 . Your loans most likely have different interest rates and payment terms.
For instance, your federal loans typically don’t need to be repaid until you graduate or you’re no longer a half-time student. The average student loan payment is between $200 and $400 a month . Yet, keeping track of your student loans—what you’ve paid, what you still owe, even which lender currently holds the loan—can be tricky if you’re not organized.
You certainly don’t want to miss a payment, incur a late fee or, even worse, risk defaulting on your student loan. If you want to avoid these mishaps, which could wreak havoc on your credit score, it might be time to check out some tried-and-true methods to manage your student loans.
Here are five tips for keeping track of your student loan payments.
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Create a Separate File
Whether you use an accordion folder, an old shoebox, or a binder, it’s important to keep your student loan documents in one place for easy reference. Among the most important documents is the original student loan promissory note outlining the terms of your agreement, any notifications that your loan has been sold to another lender, and your annual 1098-E , which outlines how much you paid in interest on your loan the year before. You will also want to keep every loan statement that shows you made your student loan payment on time each month.
Use a Spreadsheet
If you have more than one student loan, you can create a student loan tracker with a simple Excel or Google Doc spreadsheet. This will help keep track of each lender’s name, the loan’s interest rate, whether the loan rate is fixed or variable, if it’s a federal loan or private loan, your current monthly payment, and the date it’s due each month.
You could also add a column for the date you made your payment and the corresponding check number. Bonus points if you keep track of the interest you are paying, the remaining principal owed, and the last time the terms of your loan were updated.
Find an App
If you want to be able to keep track of your payment without the hassle of a spreadsheet, there are several free apps that allow you to track your progress and compare repayment plans.
Some apps even allow you to compare two payoff methods—debt snowball (you pay off the smallest loan balance first while paying only the minimum on your other student loans) versus debt avalanche (you pay off your student loan with the highest interest rate first while paying only the minimum on your other student loans).
Double-Check What You Owe
Make it a yearly habit to double-check how much money you still owe on your student loans. You can look up the balance of your federal student loans on the National Student Loan Data System website.
Private student loans can be harder to track down, particularly since private lenders often sell their loans to other companies. One way to find out which student loans you currently hold is to request your annual free credit report from Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian. A credit report will show all your current debt, including any student loans.
Simplify Your Loans by Refinancing
Refinancing your student loans can make it easier to keep track of them. If you hold multiple student loans with different interest rates and payment plans, refinancing allows you to consolidate multiple loans into one loan with a single (hopefully lower) interest rate and one monthly payment.
Not only can this make your repayment plan easier, it also can make it more straightforward to keep track of how much you’ve paid and how much you still owe.
Many people who refinance their student loans are able to create a more flexible repayment plan by lengthening their term and lowering their monthly payment as a result. Or if you’re more interested in getting out of debt faster, you can try refinancing to a lower interest rate, which could reduce the amount of interest you pay over the life of your loan.
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Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the
FTC’s website on credit.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.