In addition to typical banking and lending services, some credit unions also offer student loan refinancing opportunities. Refinancing student loans means that you pool all or some of your existing federal or private student loans into a new loan with a new, private lender. The goal is to achieve some sort of advantage when you refinance: for example, a lower interest rate or a lower monthly payment by extending your loan term.
It’s important to note that if you refinance federal student loans, you will forfeit access to federal repayment plans, such as the Standard, Graduated, and Extended Repayment plans.
Keep reading to learn more about how credit unions differ from traditional banks and why you may want to consider a credit union for student loan refinance.
How Credit Unions Differ from Traditional Banks
A credit union is a financial services cooperative that exists to serve its members. Products and services of a credit union typically include member education, financial planning help, mobile and online banking, checking and savings accounts, and the usual menu of loans.
Banks deliver many of the same types of services as credit unions. Their main goals are to benefit stakeholders and customers. But credit unions differ from traditional banks in one main way — they are nonprofit, whereas traditional banks are for-profit. Take a look at the comparison table below to learn more about the differences between credit unions vs. banks.
|Nonprofit organizations||For-profit institutions|
|Must be a member; they are member-owned||Anyone can be a customer; they are owned by shareholders|
|Dividends issued to members and also to benefit capital development for the overall benefit of members||Stockholders receive dividends|
|More-limited product offerings||Wide variety of product offerings|
|Deposit insurance, which helps provide insurance in case of institution failure, is provided by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)||Deposit insurance in case of bank failure is provided by the FDIC|
|May offer lower rates and better fees||Rates and fees may be higher due to for-profit status|
|Fewer locations and ATMs||More branches and ATMs|
Pros and Cons of Refinancing Student Loans With a Credit Union
Credit unions can offer benefits that other lenders might not give you, but there are some downsides to watch out for as well. It’s a good idea to take a look at both the pros and cons before refinancing student loans with a credit union.
|Pros of Credit Union Refinancing||Cons of Credit Union Refinancing|
|May charge lower interest rates and fees||May encounter limits on how much you can refinance|
|Credit unions have a greater understanding of member needs (such as alumni, military, or community credit unions)||May offer less flexible repayment options|
|May earn discounts if you’re already a member or if you make your loan payments on time||Interest rates and fees may cost more than with other types of financial institutions|
|Potentially better customer service due to dedication to members compared to large banks or online lenders||Must apply to become a credit union member|
If you’re looking for more in-depth information, SoFi offers a comprehensive student loan refinancing guide.
Finding a Credit Union That Refinances Student Loans
Which credit unions refinance student loans? It’s a good idea to consider a wide variety of lenders before you land on a credit union, including national credit unions, local credit unions, alumni credit unions, and even church credit unions. Not every credit union offers student loan refinancing, so you’ll have to do a little homework based on where you’re likely to be able to tap into membership opportunities.
By the time you finish comparing and contrasting all of your options (including interest rates), you’ll have a better idea of what type of lender you should choose. In addition to searching around for the right lender, you can do a few other things to strengthen your overall profile.
Review your FICO® credit score, the three-digit number that tells lenders how well you handle debt. Your credit score can reveal the rate and terms you will likely receive. It’s a good idea to try for the highest credit score you can get. The higher your credit score, the more favorable your terms will be, which can help you save a significant amount of money over time.
Consider paying down other debts you have, such as personal loans or credit card debt. Lenders take a look at your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which compares your monthly debt to the income you bring in. The lower your DTI, the better your opportunities may be.
You can also assemble the types of documents that you know your lender may need, including government-issued identification (such as your driver’s license), pay stubs from your employer, and recent tax returns. It may speed up the process of loan approval once you apply for a student loan refinance with the credit union.
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Comparing Credit Union Loan Terms
Loan terms refer to all the conditions and options available to you when borrowing money. The key elements you should look for in a refinance lender are:
• Interest rate: What interest rate will you receive from the lender? You want to be able to get a lower interest rate than what you have on your current loan(s). The lower the interest rate, the more money you’ll be able to save on your loan over time.
• Payoff amount: Know the total “payoff amount” for each loan offer. Getting a round figure from each lender will let you determine the interest amount you’ll pay over your entire loan period. A student loan refinancing calculator can also help you calculate your final costs. You can also find out whether a 20-year student loan refinance or 30-year student loan refinance makes sense for your needs.
• Fees. Some lenders charge fees to help cover the cost of servicing a loan. These may include origination fees, prepayment penalties, and late fees.
Besides loan terms, consider asking about flexible repayment options and customer service:
• Flexible repayment options: What happens if you have trouble making your payments? Will your lender work with you? It’s a good idea to ask questions about the types of repayment options they offer in the case of a job loss or a demotion, for example.
• Customer service: Will you get good customer service from the credit union you’re considering? Ask for references from current customers. You may also know of student loan refinance customers in your community who already use a particular credit union and who can talk to you about their experiences.
Recommended: When Should I Refinance My Student Loans?
Alternatives to Credit Unions for Student Loan Refinancing
What alternatives to credit unions do you have, and should you refinance student loans in the first place? You can refinance with banks, online lenders, and other financial institutions.
Some online banks and lenders differ in that they cannot accept cash deposits (to savings or checking accounts) from customers. Or they may only offer loans, lines of credit, and credit cards. Because they don’t accept cash deposits, online lenders face less stringent government requirements than traditional banks and credit unions.
Before you make a final decision about a credit union student loan refinance or alternative banking solution, take a look at the interest rates, overall payoff amounts, repayment options, and customer service reviews.
You can refinance private student loans with a credit union (as well as federal student loans), but it isn’t your only option. Credit unions differ from traditional banks due to their nonprofit status, membership requirements, dividends offered to members, limited product offerings, and backing by the NCUA rather than the FDIC. Shop around to find the best loan terms (interest rate, repayment period, and fees) before you settle on a lender.
If you think refinancing might make sense for your situation, consider refinancing your student loans with SoFi. You can refinance online and pay zero fees.
1. Refinancing student loans is a way to lower your monthly payments by either getting a lower interest rate and/or extending the loan term. Please note: If you refinance a federal loan, you will no longer have access to federal protections and benefits.
2. When refinancing a student loan, you may shorten or extend the loan term. Shortening your loan term may result in higher monthly payments but significantly less total interest paid. A longer loan term typically results in lower monthly payments but more total interest paid.
3. It might be beneficial to look for a refinancing lender that offers extras. SoFi members, for instance, can qualify for rate discounts and have access to career services, financial advisors, networking events, and more — at no extra cost.
Photo credit: iStock/SDI Productions
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.
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