Back when you signed up for your first federal student loan, you might have been grateful to learn you had 10 years or more to pay the money back. A longer loan term typically comes with smaller monthly payments — and that can be helpful when you’re just starting out and trying to make ends meet.
Once you’re feeling steadier on your feet financially, though, the idea of dumping that debt a little sooner than planned can be tempting. One way to do that is by adjusting the frequency of your student loan payments. You can make extra student loan payments each month beyond your minimum required payment.
Below we explore the merits of making weekly student loan payments vs. biweekly or monthly student loan payments.
How Do Weekly Student Loan Payments Work?
You can make weekly student loan payments through automated or manual payments every seven days. Both federal and private student loans typically require minimum monthly payments, but you can make extra payments above that amount if you wish.
If you’re required to pay $300 per month on student debt, for example, you could instead pay $100 each week. Paying at that rate would accelerate your loan payments, meaning you may pay your debt off faster and reduce your total interest costs over the life of the loan.
Here’s another example of how weekly student loan payments can work:
Let’s say a recent graduate has a monthly student loan payment of $400. That’s $4,800 a year. But now that she’s working, she realizes she can pay a little more every month. If she splits that $400 into $100 weekly student loan payments, over the course of the year she’ll pay $5,200 instead of $4,800. That’s equal to a whole extra payment for the year that can reduce her interest costs over the life of the loan.
What’s an Extra Student Loan Payment?
An extra student loan payment is when you pay more than the required amount due on your monthly billing statement. You can make extra student loan payments if you wish, but it’s important that everyone is on board regarding how those extra payments should be applied.
When you apply for student loans, you may take out multiple education loans to help cover your tuition and related expenses. You can instruct your lender to put extra payments toward principal reduction, not the next month’s payment. It may be possible to do this electronically by logging into your account and selecting how the extra amount should be allocated.
As a borrower, you can consider different repayment options. If you determine that making extra payments is right for you and your budget, you can ask your lender or loan servicer to allocate your extra payments to your higher interest loans first.
Student loan refinancing may be another way to reduce your total interest costs.
💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? With SoFi’s no-fee loans, you could save thousands.
Are You Ready for Accelerated Payments?
Just about every financial strategy has pros and cons, and that applies to accelerated payments. There are a few scenarios when making extra loan payments wouldn’t necessarily be in a borrower’s best interest.
If a person is carrying $50,000 in high-interest credit card debt, for example, that debt may take priority over a student loan with a lower interest rate.
Another priority could be building an emergency fund first to handle unexpected costs — from car repairs to medical bills.
You have no obligation to pay extra, but borrowers are generally expected to repay their student loans when due. The 2023 debt ceiling bill officially ended the three-year Covid-19 forbearance, requiring federal student loan interest accrual to resume on Sept. 1 and payments to resume in October 2023.
Recommended: 6 Strategies to Pay off Student Loans Quickly
Benefits of Paying Student Loans Biweekly
Making loan payments biweekly instead of monthly can accelerate the payoff of the student debt and reduce your total interest costs over the life of the loan. Paying student loans biweekly may be right for you if you’re interested in paying more than your required amount due each month.
Aligning payment frequency with an employer’s payroll schedule (whether it’s weekly or biweekly) may help with budgeting and ensuring money is in the right bank account when your payment is due. If you’re making weekly or biweekly payments, it’s critical that you cover at least the required amount due by your scheduled due date to avoid any penalties.
If that seems like a lot of extra work and worry, autopay (also called direct debit) might be a solution to staying on top of payments. The U.S. Department of Education does not charge prepayment penalties on federal student loans, and federal law prohibits prepayment penalties on private student loans.
Whether you have federal or private student debt, paying off your education loans sooner rather than later can minimize your total interest costs without penalty.
Alternatives to Accelerated Payments
For those who aren’t quite ready to move into an accelerated payment plan, there are alternative methods that can help with getting ahead of student debt. To try a test run, you could divide your current monthly payment by 12 and add that amount to each payment whenever possible. For example, a $400 monthly payment would be about $33 extra a month. But when times are tight, you could send the regular amount.
Another approach might be to put lump sums of extra money toward loan payments spontaneously but whenever possible. (If you get a tax refund, for instance, or receive a bonus at work.)
You could also look at a federal Direct Consolidation Loan, which allows you to combine your federal education loans into a single loan with one payment. That can make repayment more manageable, but because it’s a government program, it doesn’t include private loans. And a federal consolidation loan usually increases the period of time the borrower has to repay the loans, which means one could end up paying more in interest.
If you have a stable income and solid credit, you might want to look at combining all of your student loans into a new loan with one manageable payment by refinancing with a private lender.
💡 Quick Tip: 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.
Income-Driven Repayment Plans
Making weekly or biweekly student loan payments may not be right for everyone. If you cannot afford voluntary extra payments on federal student loans, you may consider enrolling into a federal income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. Private student loans are not eligible for IDR plans.
All IDR plans can end with federal student loan forgiveness after 20 or 25 years, but some borrowers on the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan may have their loans forgiven much sooner. Borrowers with original principal balances under $12,000 can have their remaining federal loan balances canceled after 10 years under the SAVE Plan.
The SAVE Plan is the most affordable repayment plan for federal student loans, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Borrowers who earn less than 225% of the federal poverty guideline (or less than $32,805 for a single borrower and $67,500 for a family of four in 2023) don’t have to make any payments under the SAVE Plan.
For those who are required to pay, SAVE Plan enrollees beginning July 2024 will have payment amounts based on 5% of discretionary income for undergraduate loans, 10% for graduate loans, and a weighted average for borrowers who have both.
Pros and Cons of Student Loan Refinancing
Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.
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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. 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 or extended repayment plans.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.